ATLANTA — Henry Rodriguez is ready to return to the Washington Nationals. But right now there is no obvious place for him. So Rodriguez, who made his first rehab outing on June 19, remains with Double-A Harrisburg as the Nationals maximize the leeway they have with him on a 30-day rehab assignment.
Rodriguez, who had a right index finger strain after slamming it in the bathroom door in Miami, has made six rehab appearances, throwing four one-inning appearances with Triple-A Syracuse and then moving to Harrisburg where he pitched on back-to-back days June 27 and 28.
Rodriguez threw a scoreless, hitless inning in each of those outings. He walked one on Wednesday and struck out two. On Thursday, he struck out one and reports have him in the 96-98 mph range with his fastball.
“I think he’s ready,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who said the team is keeping Rodriguez on rehab to ensure he’s able to go on back-to-back days, though he has done that twice already during this rehab stint. “When he does that and has an off-day, it’ll be up to (Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo) to make that call.”
Johnson said from the reports he’s gotten, Rodriguez has improved on the various aspects the Nationals asked, including keeping his composure and calm in order to help him harness his electric stuff.
“He’s done everything we asked of him,” he said. “So he’ll be back here soon.”
The Nationals can keep Rodriguez on a rehab until July 18, if they so choose, before his assignment expires.
– Nationals bench man Chad Tracy is getting close to going on a rehab assignment. As written Friday, Tracy will likely head out on assignment with closer Drew Storen in the coming days and look to play in games through the All-Star break.
Johnson said he anticipates that Tracy, who has been building up his hitting and running each day, would most likely begin his rehab as a designated hitter and play the field as well a game or two after that.
“Mostly, I’m concerned with ‘Can he hit and is it OK to just run the bases,’” Johnson said. “I think he thinks he could do that right now.”
Tracy, who had surgery to repair a torn right adductor muscle on May 31, still leads major league baseball with nine pinch-hit RBIs. Johnson spoke at length on Friday about how excited he is to get his bat back on the Nationals’ bench.
“I really love his bat,” Johnson said. “He won a bunch of games for us with his bat prior to leaving. His injury was just as severe a loss to the team as a Michael Morse or a Jayson Werth or a Wilson Ramos. Because he really had a big role on this ballclub, late inning pinch hitter, trying to win a tie game against their best pitcher.
“He was winning those battles. As far as my thinking, he was as big or bigger than any of the regulars we lost because he was always going to be there in crunch time. I do want him back and I do want him getting enough hitting so that his timing is up to snuff.”