The Nationals have 36 players on their active roster right now. They have a plethora of options at almost every position and are especially well-stocked in their bullpen. Still, there have been several situations over the past two weeks that it’s been clear how much they miss having right-hander Ryan Mattheus as one of those options. After getting his first big league promotion in early June this year, Mattheus, himself just over two years removed from Tommy John surgery, has proven himself an integral part of the bullpen.
He’s been on the disabled list since Aug. 26 with tightness in his right shoulder, but Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Thursday that Mattheus is doing very well. He’s been playing catch and will begin a bullpen throwing program on Sunday, Sept. 11. The plan is then for him to throw two more bullpens (on the 13th and the 15th) and then throw a simulated game to some of those 36 active players on the 17th. If all of that goes well, he could find himself back in a major league game before the season is over.
He will not, however, get in one before Sept. 20, Johnson said.
“That’s kind of the mapped out plan as of right now,” Johnson said. “But he’s feeling good, so we’ll probably make the decision on pitching him in a game.
“It’s not like he needs to have more appearances in 2011. The question would be would he rest easier if he came back and had a good inning up here? Would he feel better? Would Mike Rizzo feel better? Would I feel better. That determination will probably be made on the 17th.”
– Triple-A Syracuse manager Randy Knorr and pitching coach Greg Booker were expected to join the Nationals on Thursday and remain with them as extra coaches throughout the end of the season.
With so many young players who have played recently for both Knorr and Booker, along with plenty of call-ups who served under them this season, they can provide valuable insight to Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty in the season’s final month.
“I told (Nationals GM Mike Rizzo), get those guys up here,” Johnson said. “I’ve got questions I’ve got to ask them. I’d like to talk to them… They know these guys better than I do. I actually wanted (the coaches) here before I wrote (the new players’) names in the lineup, or I use them. They have a wealth of knowledge they can pass on. I know them and I’ve talked to them but.. I think it’s invaluable to have the pitching coach and the Triple-A manager.”
– Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez is healthy and ready to catch in a game and be used however Johnson would like but it seems unlikely that he’ll do much of it before the end of the season. Rodriguez came off the disabled list on Sept. 3 but has yet to start a game. He has pinch hit once.
Johnson said Thursday that it’s not exactly important for Rodriguez to get playing time in the season’s final month — or at least not nearly as important as it is for Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores to continue to get that time.
“He’s ready, he could catch,” Johnson said. “He’s a first ballot Hall of Famer and he can still play, but I’ve got two guys that need to play more than he does for reasons that are beneficial to the club. Ramos is the No. 1 catcher, he needs all the experience he can get. Flores is coming back from two years on the shelf and if he can regain his shape thats very important. That’s more important than Pudge getting in the game. The other guys need it more.”