PHOENIX — Nationals’ shortstop Ian Desmond is expected to take a big step in his recovery process from a strained left oblique Saturday evening when he takes about 20 swings in the batting cage at Chase Field.
Desmond, who has been on the disabled list since July 22 after playing through the oblique issue for more than a month, began throwing this week and has resumed taking ground balls during batting practice before the team’s games each day. Those were good steps toward his return but swinging is considered the truest test.
Desmond was expected to swing shortly before the Nationals’ 5 p.m. local time game and he’s been encouraged by the way he’s felt thus far in his healing process.
“He doesn’t feel it,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said before Desmond was schedule to swing. “You can touch it and (he) could always feel it when you touched it, but that symptoms gone. We’re going to be cautious with him, just like a hamstring or an oblique we’re going to make sure he’s healthy before we turn him loose.”
An All-Star and arguably one of the best shortstops in the National League this season, Desmond was one of the Nationals most integral players in the first half. He’s hitting .286 with a .322 on-base percentage and slugging .503 with 17 home runs, two triples and 24 doubles in 89 games.
All that being said, the Nationals are inching closer to when rosters will expand on Sept. 1, so the question was posed to Johnson as to whether or not they’d consider taking an extremely conservative approach with him to prevent them from needing to make an uncomfortable roster decision. The answer was a resounding no.
“When that man’s ready I want him back,” Johnson said. “Arguably he’s been the most dynamic player this year of all of us. He’s done things we all knew he was probably capable of and he’s gone even farther than that.
“When he gets back, I like to have a run producer hitting behind either Morse or LaRoche and it’s Desmond.”
The Nationals medical staff has counseled Johnson on the nature of an injury that has become more and more prevalent in recent years and told him to consider it the same way he would a hamstring injury. That re-injuring it could cause a lot more damage and a lot more missed time than being a little overly cautious with the rehab will cost them.
“(They) want to be ultra-cautious on it so there was no symptoms of it at all,” Johnson said. “I like our medical staff a lot so, whenever (medical director Wiemi Douoguih) gives him the green light, we’ll take the wraps off him.”