ATLANTA — With veteran utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. healthy and expected to come off the 15-day disabled list Monday, the Nationals cleared space for him on the active roster by optioning Brian Bixler to Triple-A Syracuse following Sunday’s game.
Bixler was the unfortunate victim of a numbers game being a player who served in a similar role as Hairston and having an option remaining this season. The Nationals will have to compensate for the loss of his speed and versatility but they’ll regain some of that in bringing Hairston back into the fold.
“It’s a numbers game,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “I like everything about him. He has a big future here. Fortunately, Hairston’s coming back but (Bixler’s) the odd man out.”
In 56 plate appearances, Bixler hit .196 but he stole four bases, scored six runs and played every defensive position except second base, catcher and pitcher. His speed on the basepaths had put the Nationals in position for several victories as they began piling up wins starting in early June.
The Nationals will get a boost, though, when they return the equally versatile Hairston to the active roster. Hairston, who is hitting .260 with a.335 on-base percentage this season, was hit with a pitch on June 29, fracturing a bone in his wrist. He spent just three days over the minimum on the disabled list and was 1-for-6 with two walks in two rehab games at shortstop with Double-A Harrisburg.
Hairston had been getting hot at the plate before the injury. In 13 games before landing on the DL, Hairston was hitting .407 with a .515 on-base percentage, seeing the majority of his time in the outfield after being the primary fill-in for Ryan Zimmerman at third base for much of the first half.