SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a very good chance the Washington Nationals’ 6-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday afternoon was not just the capper on an 8-2 road trip but also the final game the team will play without shortstop Ian Desmond.
Desmond, who has been on the disabled list since July 22 with a left oblique strain, is still expected to go through a simulated game on Thursday at Nationals Park but activating him for Friday’s game against the New York Mets now seems like little more than a formality.
“He’s good to go,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said as he wrapped up his post-game media session.
When Desmond first succumbed to the disabled list shortly after the All-Star break, though he’d played through the injury since at least mid-June, the Nationals trainers told Johnson that Desmond would be out around five weeks. But it’s been just over three weeks and Desmond’s progress to this point has been steady and encouraging.
Two Mondays ago, Desmond took ground balls and did some throwing at Minute Maid Park in Houston. That was his first step back into baseball activities. Five days later he swung for the first time when the Nationals were in Phoenix and Monday afternoon Johnson could hardly contain himself when he let the media know that Desmond would be going through a full workout at AT&T Park.
The comfort the Nationals and their training staff have with Desmond’s health is enough that they can opt to forego a rehab assignment and slot the slugging shortstop back into Johnson’s lineup on Friday. Desmond was scheduled to play in a simulated game on Thursday, which Chien-Ming Wang was expected to pitch, but Wang is now scheduled to rehab with Double-A Harrisburg Thursday night, and either way a rehab assignment for Desmond appears extremely unlikely.
“All I know is that the times that I was on the DL… at the end of my time they didn’t send me anywhere around Baltimore they just put me back in the lineup,” Johnson said Monday. “I didn’t rehab. I just went right in there. When you’re watching the ballgames, timing is going to be different for every pitcher you face. As long as you’re healthy and your stroke is fine, which his strike is absolutely, he’ll catch up pretty quick.
“I don’t think it’s going to help his timing to be timing guys in (Single-A) Potomac who throw 100 mph and don’t throw it over.”
Desmond was one of the Nationals best and most consistent hitters, even with the injury, when he went on the disabled list. Named to the NL All-Star team early in July, Desmond is hitting .286 with a .322 on-base percentage and .503 slugging percentage. In 89 games, Desmond’s hit 17 home runs, 24 doubles and two triples.