MIAMI — With catcher Jesus Flores nursing a sore right hamstring and the team having no clear emergency backup outside of Carlos Maldonado, the Washington Nationals decided Monday to option infielder Tyler Moore back to Triple-A Syracuse and will recall catcher Jhonatan Solano before Tuesday’s game.
The move serves two purposes, really. The Nationals will get some insurance at the catcher position and allow themselves the time not to rush Flores back from what is currently a minor injury but could become major if he’s not allowed to heal adequately. Flores felt his hamstring tighten up some on Sunday night when he was scoring from second base in the Nationals’ 7-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
And Moore, one of the Nationals’ best power-hitting prospects, will be allowed to return to playing everyday. Since he was called up on April 29, Moore has started just five games and all of them have been in left field — a position the natural first baseman was just beginning to play in games when the Nationals summoned him.
“I really felt bad from the get-go having him in a situation where he’s playing out of position and he’s a regular player,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “He’s not the kind of guy who can sit and come in and play, but I thought he handled himself well.
“He played well out there (in left) and he swung the bat OK — but that’s not the role you want for a young player, a young, talented prospect, sitting there and plain against a left-hander occasionally. He’s better off going and playing. We think highly of him and he’s got a great future here.”
Moore said the news was bittersweet but he took it well. He was leaving the major leagues for the time being, but he would be able to get back to playing on a regular basis and he would be all the more comfortable when the day did come that he would return.
“It’s a blow,” Moore said. “But at the same time, I get to play and get back in my rhythm, feel like a ballplayer again. That’s kind of a relief. Sitting on the bench was good, because I got to learn roles and stuff and learn how the game went. I got to think along with Davey.
“It was real tough (not playing much). But at the same time, we were winning games. So it wasn’t that tough. Everything’s better when you’re winning. And you can’t really put me in there when all the guys are playing great. It’s not like we’re losing. I definitely understand the situation. We need another player.”
Solano will most likely share the catching duties fairly evenly with Carlos Maldonado until Flores returns to full health — which the Nationals do not anticipate being a long time. They just couldn’t afford the unthinkable happening. The team’s emergency catcher would likely be Steve Lombardozzi, who has never played the position.
“I’m not sure that I would want to take a chance, (with) everything else that’s happened around here,” Johnson said, referencing the Nationals’ injurious run on catchers. Solano will be the fifth catcher the Nationals have had on the active roster already this season, first losing Wilson Ramos to a torn ACL, then Sandy Leon to a high ankle sprain and now Flores to this minor hamstring soreness.
Solano himself was just recently activated from the minor league DL, out with a back issue for several weeks.
“(Flores) was warming up the pitcher between innings (Monday) but that’s not like running to first base and I would hate for him to pull a hamstring or something by me rushing him back in the lineup,” Johnson said. “Just had to make that move. I didn’t see any other way to safeguard. Hopefully I could probably get him more than just the one day to make sure he’s over that because if you pull it a little bit and then you injure it, you’re out a long time. We can’t afford that.”