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Injury updates: Hellickson, Kintzler, Wieters

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals plan to send right-hander Jeremy Hellickson on a Minor League rehab assignment this weekend in what will likely be the final step in his return from the disabled list with a mild right hamstring strain.

Hellickson, who has been on the DL since June 5, has thrown a pair of bullpen sessions, taken pitcher's fielding practice and completed a simulated game in the bullpen and thought he could have returned to the club's rotation as soon as Saturday. But Nationals manager Dave Martinez said the team wanted to see Hellickson make a rehab outing before he rejoined the Nats.

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WASHINGTON -- The Nationals plan to send right-hander Jeremy Hellickson on a Minor League rehab assignment this weekend in what will likely be the final step in his return from the disabled list with a mild right hamstring strain.

Hellickson, who has been on the DL since June 5, has thrown a pair of bullpen sessions, taken pitcher's fielding practice and completed a simulated game in the bullpen and thought he could have returned to the club's rotation as soon as Saturday. But Nationals manager Dave Martinez said the team wanted to see Hellickson make a rehab outing before he rejoined the Nats.

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"We're probably going to send him down and pitch," Martinez said. "Probably pitch five or six innings down in the Minor Leagues somewhere."

Hellickson had been brilliant for the Nationals in nine starts as the team's fifth starter where he posted a 2.28 ERA. In his absence, the Nats turned to right-hander Jefry Rodriguez to fill the final rotation spot and he is scheduled to make his second start of the year Sunday night against the Phillies.

Kintzler, Wieters progressing
Right-hander Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) is also near the start of a Minor League rehab assignment after his bullpen session went well Wednesday.

"I'd like for him to go down and maybe throw an inning and see where he's at," Martinez said. "But I'll have that conversation with him and [trainer Paul Lessard]. But he says he feels pretty good."

Matt Wieters caught another bullpen session Thursday afternoon and ran on the field to test the left oblique strain that currently has him on the DL. They are both positive steps for the Nationals, but Martinez still hesitated to place a timetable on his return.

"It's all a progression right now, he's got to really feel comfortable running," Martinez said. "That's a bad injury, especially for a catcher, so we want to make sure he's comfortable running and squatting for nine innings. There's no set timetable for him, so we'll just play it by ear."

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Jeremy Hellickson

The Nationals' most pressing question

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

Shifting powers within the National League East have created a new dynamic as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, with more potential buyers than sellers dotting the landscape. The Braves, Nationals and Phillies all believe they have legitimate chances to make the postseason, while the Mets aren't quite counting themselves out yet, either.

Many general managers like to slice regular seasons into three segments, using the first to learn about their teams, the second to take action, and the third to let the chips fall where they may. But while each NL East team is well into Phase 2 of that plan, they all still have unanswered questions clouding their futures:

Shifting powers within the National League East have created a new dynamic as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, with more potential buyers than sellers dotting the landscape. The Braves, Nationals and Phillies all believe they have legitimate chances to make the postseason, while the Mets aren't quite counting themselves out yet, either.

Many general managers like to slice regular seasons into three segments, using the first to learn about their teams, the second to take action, and the third to let the chips fall where they may. But while each NL East team is well into Phase 2 of that plan, they all still have unanswered questions clouding their futures:

Video: Byrnes breaks down Braves, Freeman's MVP chances

BRAVES
The question: Can Atlanta keep this up?

This question is layered deeper than it might appear. Every year, a rebuilding team or two tends to rise to contention sooner than expected, as the Braves have done in shooting out to first place. If they play their cards right at the Deadline, Atlanta could add a reliever, a bench bat or even a starting pitcher if its budget allows. But the Braves won't likely address all of those areas, knowing they needs to maintain a strong farm system and a responsible budget to keep the window of contention open as long as possible.

How Atlanta performs over the next three to four weeks could have a major impact on what it does at the Deadline. A strong run could prompt more aggression from the Braves in trade talks. Less dynamic play might convince them to stay conservative, knowing that no matter what happens this year, they're a team with oodles of potential for 2019.

Video: MIA@BAL: Realmuto crushes a 2-run homer to center

MARLINS
The question: Which veterans will be on the move?

There's little doubt the Marlins will sell off pieces prior to the Trade Deadline. The only question is which ones?

Teams seeking catching help -- the Red Sox, Brewers and Angels spring to mind -- will surely ask about J.T. Realmuto, but there's doubt within the industry that Miami would deal him. When the Mets checked in earlier this year, they came away with the impression that the Marlins wanted to keep their standout catcher.

That could change as the deadline nears, but even if it doesn't, Miami has assets to spare. First baseman Justin Bour, second baseman Starlin Castro, starting pitcher Dan Straily and reliever Kyle Barraclough all could fetch interesting returns, considering they are under contractual control for multiple seasons. Like Realmuto, all of them have been involved in trade rumors in the past.

In any event, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill is about to become a popular man.

Video: NYM@COL: Syndergaard discusses progress on his injury

METS
The question: When will the superstars return (and will it be too late)?

Yoenis Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard have combined to miss more than two months with injuries that the Mets once considered relatively minor -- a strained right hip flexor for Cespedes, a strained right index finger for Syndergaard. The team still doesn't have much of a timetable for either, complicating its attempt to push back into playoff contention. With Cespedes and Syndergaard active and healthy, the Mets believe they can make a late run at an NL Wild Card berth. Without them, the team might be inclined to look toward 2019.

Last summer, general manager Sandy Alderson provided a blueprint of what a yard sale could look like before (and after) July 31, dealing away Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson for a cadre of high-upside relievers. This year's inventory of pending free agents is not quite so robust, with only Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera potentially attractive to buyers. The Mets could pivot on their longstanding philosophy and deal away Jacob deGrom or Syndergaard, but trading either would indicate a full-scale rebuild -- something they do not appear willing to undertake.

Right now, the Mets see deGrom, Syndergaard and Cespedes as critical parts of their 2019 team. A return to health for the latter two players would do wonders for the team's outlook in '18 and beyond.

Video: Is Harper putting extra pressure on himself?

NATIONALS
The question: When will Bryce Harper be Bryce Harper again?

The Nationals have performed well enough without the usual output from Harper, whose batting average, on-base percentage and slugging mark are all down significantly from last season -- some of his major offensive statistics are down even from 2016, when rumors of a shoulder injury dogged him all summer. But Washington hasn't been able to upend Atlanta, which features the division's best offense (and statistically speaking, it's not particularly close).

It's not as if Harper, who leads the NL with 19 home runs, has been unproductive. It's just that he's far from the NL MVP Award candidate the Nats expected him to be. The good news for Washington? Harper's breakout appears to be a matter of when, not if. His average exit velocity is at its highest point since his 2015 NL MVP Award-winning season, while his batting average on balls in play is at a career low. Certainly, defensive shifts have played a role in that, but Harper is too elite of a hitter to stay this unproductive for long. How quickly he turns it around could well determine the NL East title.

Video: STL@PHI: Morgan induces grounder to preserve the win

PHILLIES
The question: Can Phils survive (or thrive) without a closer?

Philadelphia's Opening Day closer, Hector Neris, lost the job in May, and it didn't stop there, as he slid all the way to Triple-A this week. For now, the Phillies are going closer-by-committee, with Adam Morgan nailing down a rogue save on Wednesday. As new-school as they come, manager Gabe Kapler doesn't believe in set bullpen roles, preferring to use his best relievers in the highest-leverage spots. But decades of history suggests that strategy doesn't often work over a 162-game season, and the Phils' ninth-inning issues don't appear to be disappearing.

A team with issues on the left side of its infield won't necessarily be able to splurge on a closer before the Deadline, even with Familia and Zach Britton among those potentially available. Instead, there's a good chance it will be up to Seranthony Dominguez, Edubray Ramos and the rest of the Phillies' in-house mix to make Kapler's strategies work.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals, New York Mets

Nats hopeful Harper will break out of slump

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- As one of the worst slumps of Bryce Harper's career continues, the Nationals continue to have confidence their superstar slugger is on the verge of a breakout. Harper and Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long have been working diligently to get his swing back on the right track, introducing new hitting drills to focus on Harper's mechanics and shorten his swing.

Prior to Wednesday's 3-0 loss to the Orioles, manager Dave Martinez reiterated that Harper's health is not one of the issues hindering him, pointing out that Harper needs to swing at strikes more frequently. But Martinez also said he sees a positive demeanor from Harper even as he has struggled, a sentiment general manager Mike Rizzo agreed with.

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WASHINGTON -- As one of the worst slumps of Bryce Harper's career continues, the Nationals continue to have confidence their superstar slugger is on the verge of a breakout. Harper and Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long have been working diligently to get his swing back on the right track, introducing new hitting drills to focus on Harper's mechanics and shorten his swing.

Prior to Wednesday's 3-0 loss to the Orioles, manager Dave Martinez reiterated that Harper's health is not one of the issues hindering him, pointing out that Harper needs to swing at strikes more frequently. But Martinez also said he sees a positive demeanor from Harper even as he has struggled, a sentiment general manager Mike Rizzo agreed with.

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"I think he's handled [his struggles] with class and dignity," Rizzo said. "I think he's been a great teammate through it all. It's easy to be a good teammate when you're 4-for-4 and hitting .330. It's tough when you're 1-for-20 or you're 1-for-25 and struggling.

"I think he's shown the maturity and the class to be a good teammate, and [he is] more worried about the wins than the hits, and I think that's an important aspect he's learned throughout his career. He's become a team leader for us, and when you're doing your worst, you have to be at your best. I think that's what Harp's shown this season in the way he's grinded through these struggles."

Harper's struggles have increased since the start of June. In 15 games entering Wednesday, he is batting .143/.238/.214 with just one home run, 23 strikeouts and five walks. Although he leads the NL in home runs at 19, his overall slash line is down to .213/.352/.470 for an OPS of .821. Respectable numbers, but not the production expected from a player with Harper's talent.

While the Nationals' manager has acknowledged he has seen Harper grow frustrated at times lately, Martinez has raved about Harper's attitude during the skid. Harper happily moved to center field when Martinez approached him about it a few weeks ago. He has moved Harper from leadoff to cleanup without any issue from Harper.

"He's going to hit, and I know he's going to carry us for a month or two," Martinez said. "So, let's not overwhelm him with anything because he's a good hitter, and his power numbers are really good. So, let's just kind of take a step back and just kind of feel things out and let him get going. He's going to get going. There's no doubt about it, he's going to get going. We just got to kind of simplify everything for him and make the game fun again."

One thing the Nationals have not discussed is the prospect of putting Harper on the bench, even if it's for a few days to clear his head. Martinez asked Harper a few days ago if he wanted to take a break, either mentally or physically, and Harper told him he preferred to play through it, and that's the way he will break out of his slump.

"You can see it in somebody's face when they say something, and they don't really mean it," Martinez said. "He says it with conviction. I believe that."

Injury notes
Brandon Kintzler threw a bullpen session on Wednesday, his first since landing on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right forearm.

Matt Wieters caught a bullpen session this week, although his oblique still hinders him when running.

Ryan Zimmerman (oblique) is still fielding grounders and hitting as he continues to improve toward beginning a potential rehab assignment.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper

Nats' offense blanked in loss to O's

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- As Gio Gonzalez walked off the mound before the start of the fifth inning, with rain descending and the tarp being rolled out to cover the field at Nationals Park, he pointed to the sky as if to signal the need for a dome. That was before a two-hour, 43-minute rain delay interrupted the Nats' 3-0 loss to the Orioles, which began Wednesday night and ended in the opening hours of Thursday morning in front of a few remaining fans from the announced crowd of 32,153.

"I did tell Davey [Martinez] I would try my hardest to put us through five before this rain comes," Gonzalez said. "If [home-plate umpire Jerry Meals] didn't tell us to put the tarp out there, I definitely would be out there in five right now."

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WASHINGTON -- As Gio Gonzalez walked off the mound before the start of the fifth inning, with rain descending and the tarp being rolled out to cover the field at Nationals Park, he pointed to the sky as if to signal the need for a dome. That was before a two-hour, 43-minute rain delay interrupted the Nats' 3-0 loss to the Orioles, which began Wednesday night and ended in the opening hours of Thursday morning in front of a few remaining fans from the announced crowd of 32,153.

"I did tell Davey [Martinez] I would try my hardest to put us through five before this rain comes," Gonzalez said. "If [home-plate umpire Jerry Meals] didn't tell us to put the tarp out there, I definitely would be out there in five right now."

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Video: BAL@WSH: Gonzalez fans Mancini in the 1st

The Nationals did not muster much offense either before or after the delay as they were shut out for the fourth time in the past 10 games and fifth time in 17 games this month.

On Wednesday night, it was tough for the Nationals to gather any momentum. The Orioles benefited from an early offensive burst after Gonzalez hung a curveball in the second inning to Mark Trumbo, who deposited the ball into the left-field seats for a two-run home run. It gave Baltimore a lead before the rain arrived and ended Gonzalez's day prematurely after four innings of two-run ball.

Before the delay, the Nats managed just three hits against Orioles right-hander Andrew Cashner, who tossed four scoreless innings before he left the game. And they collected just two more hits after the delay, striking out seven times as four Orioles relievers combined for five scoreless innings. Brad Brach closed out the game, getting a bases-loaded strikeout to end it.

Video: BAL@WSH: Kelley K's Mancini, side after rain delay

"For me, it's not really about the hits, it's about the at-bats," manager Dave Martinez said. "We lined out quite a few times today. I'm not too concerned about -- we've got some pretty good hitters. We just gotta keep pushing, keep going. The runs will come. I know they'll come. When they do come, they'll come in bunches."

The loss snaps the Nationals' six-game winning streak against their area rivals as Baltimore beat Washington for the first time this season.

"I think consistency is just hard in itself," Anthony Rendon said of the team's struggles on offense. "You play 162 games, back to back and back to back. We're playing at the highest level, and guys are throwing 98-mph sinkers. So it's kind of hard to be consistent and square that up with a round bat and a round ball."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
After struggling to find offense all night, the Nationals loaded the bases in the ninth inning after a pair of singles and a walk against Brach. That brought Mark Reynolds to the plate as the potential game-winning run with two outs, but Brach froze him with a called third strike to end the game.

 Video: BAL@WSH: Brach strikes out Reynolds to get the win

"We didn't quit," Martinez said. "We had bases loaded with a chance to win the game. We just gotta keep going."

SOUND SMART
Michael A. Taylor extended his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games with his pinch-hit single in the ninth inning against Brach. During the streak Taylor is batting .457 with a home run, six RBIs, four walks and eight stolen bases.

HE SAID IT
"Sit. Really, nothing to do. Text people. Rest. Nothing to do." -- Rendon, on how he spent the nearly three-hour rain delay

UP NEXT
The Nationals wrap up the season series with the Orioles during Wednesday's finale at 7:05 p.m. ET. Max Scherzer takes the mound after dropping his last two starts -- a single mistake led to a loss in each of those outings. He will look to avoid losing three consecutive starts for the first time since 2015. Kevin Gausman will take the mound for Baltimore.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Gio Gonzalez

Nats ride Turner, big innings to win vs. O's

Shortstop goes 4-for-4 with a homer in the opener
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez was searching for a way to energize his offense, to help it shake the inconsistency that has plagued it the past month. So he switched around his lineup Tuesday.

One of the most noteworthy moves was Trea Turner, who usually hits first or second, changing to the six spot. Turner entered the Nationals' 9-7 win over the Orioles on Tuesday night hitting .200 in June, but the 24-year-old broke out of that slump and electrified Washington's offense by hitting 4-for-4 and finishing a triple shy of the cycle at Nationals Park. The Nationals have won six consecutive games against Baltimore.

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WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez was searching for a way to energize his offense, to help it shake the inconsistency that has plagued it the past month. So he switched around his lineup Tuesday.

One of the most noteworthy moves was Trea Turner, who usually hits first or second, changing to the six spot. Turner entered the Nationals' 9-7 win over the Orioles on Tuesday night hitting .200 in June, but the 24-year-old broke out of that slump and electrified Washington's offense by hitting 4-for-4 and finishing a triple shy of the cycle at Nationals Park. The Nationals have won six consecutive games against Baltimore.

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"It's a perfect spot for him," Martinez said. "I said in Spring Training, he's a pure hitman. I don't want him thinking about taking pitches, getting on base. I just want him to go hit. When he goes up there and thinks about just hitting, he usually swings at better pitches and he draws walks, but he does what we saw tonight."

Turner opened the scoring with his eighth home run of the season in the second inning, but Jefry Rodriguez, making his first Major League start in place of Jeremy Hellickson, handed the Orioles the lead by allowing two-run homers in the third and fourth innings.

Turner helped the Nationals regain their edge by opening the fifth inning with a single and later scoring on Adam Eaton's single. The Nationals scored four runs in the inning to tie the game at five. Bryce Harper, who entered Tuesday with one hit in his previous 24 at-bats, ripped an RBI double in the frame.

Video: BAL@WSH: Harper doubles in Eaton to tie game in 5th

"When you're going good or bad, those balls that trickle through the hole or fall in between people, that mentally boosts how you feel, how you're playing," Turner said. "When each and every person has confidence in themselves, it makes all of us better."

The Orioles scored a run off Justin Miller in the sixth, but the Nationals again plated four runs in the seventh inning -- including two on a double from Anthony Rendon -- to regain an advantage they wouldn't give up.

Video: BAL@WSH: Rendon helps spark Nats' 4-run 7th inning

Juan Soto has been the only consistent Nationals hitter this month, but Turner showed he may be heating up in his new offensive role.

"You can't keep a good dog down, honestly," Eaton said. "The guy is going to continue to scrape and claw. And wherever he's hitting, it doesn't matter if it's 1-2-3-4-5-6. Wherever he hits, he's going to hit."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
About six hours after landing in Washington following his trade from the Royals on Monday night, Kelvin Herrera made his Nationals debut in the eighth inning.

• Herrera arrives, debuts in DC

The right-hander received a standing ovation as he jogged from the bullpen to the mound. The 28-year-old needed six pitches to retire the side and touched 98 mph with his fastball.

Video: BAL@WSH: Herrera retires Mancini, side in Nats debut

"It's funny, you see 95 on the Jumbotron, but it looks like 104," Eaton said. "I'm not kidding. I don't know what the gurus upstairs say about his spin effect or whatever, but I'm telling you it looks like 104 coming out of a cannon. I'm so happy he's here and he's on my team and I don't have to face him any time in the near future."

SOUND SMART
Turner is the only Nationals player other than Soto to homer in the past 10 days.

UP NEXT
Gio Gonzalez will try to break out of his slump when he takes the mound at Nationals Park against the Orioles on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. The left-hander has allowed a combined nine runs over 9 1/3 innings in his past two starts. Gonzalez, who will counter Baltimore starter Andrew Cashner, threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings when he last faced the Orioles, on May 28.

Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper, Kelvin Herrera, Anthony Rendon, Jefry Rodriguez, Trea Turner

Herrera arrives in DC, debuts in perfect 8th

Righty retires the side on 6 pitches in Nats win
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Kelvin Herrera answered questions about his Nationals debut via a translator at his locker in the team's clubhouse after Washington's 9-7 win over the Orioles on Tuesday. But when a reporter asked Herrera if the past 24 hours have been crazy, the right-hander was quick to respond himself, in English.

"Yeah," Herrera said. "Crazy."

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WASHINGTON -- Kelvin Herrera answered questions about his Nationals debut via a translator at his locker in the team's clubhouse after Washington's 9-7 win over the Orioles on Tuesday. But when a reporter asked Herrera if the past 24 hours have been crazy, the right-hander was quick to respond himself, in English.

"Yeah," Herrera said. "Crazy."

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The Royals traded Herrera to the Nationals on Monday night, and Herrera arrived in Washington around 3:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. About six hours later, he made his Nationals debut. Herrera received an ovation when he entered in the eighth inning and retired the side with six pitches.

"It's funny, you see 95 on the Jumbotron, but it looks like 104," Adam Eaton said. "I'm not kidding. I don't know what the gurus upstairs say about his spin effect or whatever, but I'm telling you it looks like 104 coming out of a cannon. I'm so happy he's here and he's on my team and I don't have to face him anytime in the near future."

Herrera played all eight of his Major League seasons with the Royals before this week, so Martinez is now focused on making Herrera feel like a part of the Nationals' family. When Herrera arrived in Washington, Martinez sat down with him to discuss the right-hander's role as a late-inning reliever.

"He actually looked at me and said, 'Wow, that was a pretty good conversation,'" Martinez said.

Martinez ensured Herrera they'd chat often, knowing that if the newly acquired reliever is happy and playing well, the Nationals will also thrive.

"I get it with him. He's been there a long time," Martinez said. "I even told him, 'The color red looks good on you. I know you're used to blue.' His winter ball team, I think, was red. I told him, 'Just think of it as you're playing on your winter ball team. You've got a different color on, and let's move forward.'"

Video: NYY@WSH: Martinez discusses adding Herrera to bullpen

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said the Nationals reached out to the Royals about a month ago regarding Herrera, and those talks progressed more over the past week.

The non-waiver Trade Deadline isn't until July 31, but Rizzo said teams wait until that date to make a trade so they can identify their needs. Rizzo has known since the beginning of the season Washington has needed to add bullpen depth, since the Nationals have heavily relied on Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler.

Doolittle, Madson, Kintzler and Herrera form a strong back end of the bullpen, which the Nationals hope will shorten postseason games and lead to winning their first playoff series. Doolittle, Madson and Herrera have extensive postseason experience.

Washington sits 3 1/2 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East.

Video: MLB Tonight on Herrera being traded to the Nats

Herrera, who will be paid the remainder of his $7.9 million salary by Washington, knew he might be traded to a contender, but the 28-year-old was surprised he was traded this early in the season. The Nationals parted ways with infielder Kelvin Gutierrez and outfielder Blake Perkins, whom MLB Pipeline ranked the team's No. 10 and 11 prospects, respectively, as well as 17-year-old right-hander Yohanse Morel, to acquire Herrera.

Herrera closed for the Royals, but the Nationals will continue using Doolittle in that role. Doolittle has notched a 1.71 ERA with 19 saves in 20 chances this season. Herrera said he's happy pitching any inning.

"The one thing I have seen about this team, these past few years, is they're always in the battle, in the fight for the playoffs, which is great chemistry here," Herrera said through a translator during his introductory news conference at Nationals Park on Tuesday. "I'm just ready to join the team and help any way I can."

Video: Herrera discusses being traded to the Nationals

Herrera played a key role in the Royals' 2015 World Series and recorded a 1.05 ERA with 14 saves, 22 strikeouts and two walks in 27 games with Kansas City this season.

The Nationals also bolstered their bullpen before the Trade Deadline last season, adding Doolittle, Kintzler and Madson to improve what was then one of baseball's worst bullpens. Washington has the league's 10th-best bullpen ERA this season.

"We never rule out doing more," Rizzo said. "We feel that [when] healthy, we've got as good a team as anybody in the league and will compete with anybody. But factors go into this thing and injuries are a part of this thing. You have to be flexible enough to roll with the punches and do what you need to do on the fly to put the best team you can at the end of the season."

Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.

Washington Nationals, Kelvin Herrera

Soto and the best homers hit by teenagers

At only 19 years old, Nationals outfield phenom Juan Soto has been the biggest teenage revelation in DC since an untamed Bryce Harper roared onto the scene in 2012. For his latest trick, Soto rewrote the rules of time and space by hitting a tater in a game that technically happened before his big league debut.

And what a majestic tater it was.

Nationals lose Adams to broken finger

First baseman placed on DL; Kendricks supports Alzheimer's Association
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals placed starting first baseman Matt Adams on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday (retroactive to June 16) with a fractured left index finger.

Adams, who is a right-handed thrower, hasn't played since June 15, but the Nationals waited until the swelling decreased in Adams' left hand so he could receive an accurate X-ray. In Adams' place, Washington recalled right-handed pitcher Jefry Rodriguez from Double-A Harrisburg to start Tuesday night against the Orioles.

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WASHINGTON -- The Nationals placed starting first baseman Matt Adams on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday (retroactive to June 16) with a fractured left index finger.

Adams, who is a right-handed thrower, hasn't played since June 15, but the Nationals waited until the swelling decreased in Adams' left hand so he could receive an accurate X-ray. In Adams' place, Washington recalled right-handed pitcher Jefry Rodriguez from Double-A Harrisburg to start Tuesday night against the Orioles.

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"This guy's been great for us all season -- as important a player as probably any we've had all season," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "For him to go down, it's a big blow to us. But at this point in time, we're used to it. We seem to get two back and lose two. That's kind of the way we've been going about this season."

Without Adams, Nationals manager Dave Martinez said Washington will use Daniel Murphy and Mark Reynolds at first base. Wilmer Difo will be the primary second baseman when Murphy is at first.

Murphy returned from right knee surgery on June 12, making his season debut. The three-time All-Star is hitting 3-for-22 in six games, but he doubled in the Nationals' loss to the Yankees on Monday night. The 33-year-old has mostly been pinch-hitting since his return. Reynolds is hitting .268 with six home runs in 22 games.

Video: WSH@TOR: Murphy clubs an RBI single to center

Adams has hit .275 with seven doubles, 13 home runs, 36 RBIs, 16 walks and 24 runs scored in 57 games.

"The good thing is, it's his non-throwing hand," Martinez said. "Once the pain actually goes away -- he was feeling better last night -- then once that goes away, he can start swinging the bat a little bit and see where he's at."

Rodriguez joined the Nationals for his second Major League stint of the season. The 24-year-old went 5-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 13 starts for Double-A Harrisburg. He made his Major League debut on June 3 at Atlanta, when he was called upon in the bottom of the first inning after Jeremy Hellickson left the game due to injury. Rodriguez allowed four hits and no runs over 4 2/3 innings.

The Nationals also optioned Wander Suero to Triple-A Syracuse to make room for reliever Kelvin Herrera, whom Washington traded for Monday night. Suero recorded a 3.63 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 15 games out of Washington's bullpen.

Kendrick supports Alzheimer's Association
Howie Kendrick still has trouble walking since he ruptured his achilles May 19, but that didn't stop the 34-year-old from walking up the steps of the Nationals' dugout with a boot on and taking the field with a purple shirt that read "#ENDALZ" before the Nationals played the Orioles on Tuesday evening.

Tweet from @Nationals: The Washington Nationals are proud to host Alzheimer's Awareness Night at #Nats Park!#OnePursuit // #ENDALZ pic.twitter.com/ki1LGYIoSS

Kendrick's mother-in-law was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at age 60, so he and his family and friends were shown on the jumbotron Tuesday to show their support for the Alzheimer's Association.

The Nationals partnered with the Alzheimer's Association as part of the Nonprofit of the Night program, a new initiative designed to help organizations gain exposure and meet their fundraising goals.

Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.

Washington Nationals, Matt Adams, Howie Kendrick, Daniel Murphy, Mark Reynolds, Jefry Rodriguez

Soto goes back in time, homers before debut

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- When this game between the Yankees and Nationals initially began on May 15, Juan Soto went 3-for-4 at the plate for Double-A Harrisburg. Five days later, he received the call to Washington and became the youngest player in the Majors.

But Soto was still eligible to play when this suspended game resumed Monday at Nationals Park, and as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning, the rookie launched a two-run homer near the concourse in the second deck in right field to provide the difference in Washington's 5-3 victory.

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WASHINGTON -- When this game between the Yankees and Nationals initially began on May 15, Juan Soto went 3-for-4 at the plate for Double-A Harrisburg. Five days later, he received the call to Washington and became the youngest player in the Majors.

But Soto was still eligible to play when this suspended game resumed Monday at Nationals Park, and as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning, the rookie launched a two-run homer near the concourse in the second deck in right field to provide the difference in Washington's 5-3 victory.

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Video: NYY@WSH: Doolittle retires Sanchez and gets the save

The ball came off Soto's bat at 111.8 mph against right-hander Chad Green and will count as his sixth career home run, although it came before his Major League debut. Perhaps, time travel can be added to the 19-year old phenom's impressive resume.

"I wish he was climbing the ladder more routinely and was in Double-A now," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said with a smile. "What can you say? Nineteen and obviously doing really well and has hurt us a couple of games."

The resumption of this suspended game between the Nationals and Yankees from May 15 left room for the unusual and quirky. Tyler Austin is responsible for driving in all three Yankees runs, but he began the day in Triple-A. Adam Eaton made a pinch-hitting appearance, even though it began five days after he had undergone ankle surgery. Greg Bird was playing in a Minor League rehab assignment at this time.

All that paled in comparison to Soto.

Video: NYY@WSH: Soto doubles off Sanchez at second base

Soto's Major League debut will still officially be recognized as May 20, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, although this home run will also count five days before that date.

"I don't think about all that," Soto said. "I know because somebody told me. I just come to play my game and keep going."

It will also go down as his first career pinch-hit home run. Soto even made a heads-up play in the top of the seventh inning to double off Gary Sanchez at first base after catching a line drive off the bat of Didi Gregorius.

So Soto continues to punish the Yankees. In his first career game at Yankee Stadium last week, he swatted a pair of home runs to lead the Nats to victory. And with one swing on the bat Monday, Soto catapulted the Nationals to another win in a game where he was not even initially in the Majors.

"A lot of people tell me, 'Hey, you're killing the Yankees,'" Soto said with a smile. "Everybody knows the Yankees, likes the Yankees. That feels pretty good."

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Juan Soto

Nats acquire reliever Herrera from Royals

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals made an early summer splash on Monday evening, acquiring right-handed closer Kelvin Herrera from the Royals in exchange for a trio of Minor Leaguers: infielder Kelvin Gutierrez, outfielder Blake Perkins and right-hander Yohanse Morel.

The trade helps bolster Washington's bullpen, something that has become a midsummer tradition, by adding another reliever with experience pitching in high-leverage and big-game situations. And Herrera has been effective this season, recording a 1.05 ERA with 14 saves, 22 strikeouts and two walks allowed in 27 games for Kansas City.

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WASHINGTON -- The Nationals made an early summer splash on Monday evening, acquiring right-handed closer Kelvin Herrera from the Royals in exchange for a trio of Minor Leaguers: infielder Kelvin Gutierrez, outfielder Blake Perkins and right-hander Yohanse Morel.

The trade helps bolster Washington's bullpen, something that has become a midsummer tradition, by adding another reliever with experience pitching in high-leverage and big-game situations. And Herrera has been effective this season, recording a 1.05 ERA with 14 saves, 22 strikeouts and two walks allowed in 27 games for Kansas City.

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The move improves an already strong late-inning arsenal, adding Herrera to the trio of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler to form a potential dynamic back end of the bullpen, one capable of shortening games in the postseason and turning early leads into victories.

"I think it's one of those situations where you can't have too many options down there," Doolittle said. "You get a guy who's pitched in every high-leverage role from the seventh inning on. He's won a World Series. He's battle-tested. We're planning on playing some really meaningful games down the stretch and making a run into the playoffs. We're going to need some help. I think it's awesome."

Video: MLB Tonight on Herrera being traded to the Nats

Even with the addition of Herrera, Doolittle will remain the Nationals' closer. Before the trade was complete, general manager Mike Rizzo went up to Doolittle to assure him of that much and let him know the team has confidence in him.

Doolittle has been lights-out this season, with a 1.37 ERA and 18 saves in 19 chances.

Manager Dave Martinez made sure to throw his support behind Doolittle as well. He was not sure exactly how he would utilize his new mix of late-inning relievers, but he'll have four pitchers with closing experience once Kintzler returns from the disabled list.

"I'm excited to have him. He's going to fit right in," Martinez said of Herrera. "He's closed games. He's come in in the eighth. For me, we have an All-Star closer right now, so he'll be asked to do some different things."

Video: NYY@WSH: Martinez discusses adding Herrera to bullpen

Plus, Nats relievers have shown they have little ego when it comes to deciding who pitches in what role, so incorporating Herrera into that fold should be simple.

"I don't think anybody's going to have a problem with it," Madson said. "Let the old horse rest a little bit. He can let me pitch every once in a while, and I'll be fine. All hands on deck, of course, when playoff time comes around. So I don't see anybody else losing any sleep about it."

Video: TEX@KC: Herrera reflects on his time in Kansas City

To acquire Herrera, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, the Nationals had to part with their Nos. 10- and 11-ranked prospects as rated by MLB Pipeline in Gutierrez and Perkins, respectively. But they held on to their top prospects.

A year ago, he acquired Doolittle, Kintzler and Madson to save a disastrous bullpen. Even though the Nationals' bullpen has been steady this season, Rizzo saw an opportunity to improve and try to build the kind of unit necessary for postseason success.

Herrera owns a 1.26 ERA in 22 games and 38 strikeouts without allowing a home run. That kind of experience will be valuable to a Nats club with lofty postseason aspirations.

"It takes a lot of quality arms," said Madson, Herrera's teammate with the Royals in 2015. "You look at any postseason team, there's a lot of quality arms out there. … So you can never too have many, and quality like these. [Herrera] will be a welcome addition."

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Kelvin Herrera

Nats miss out on sweeping exciting day

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals were presented with a chance to bounce back from a rough weekend in Toronto, with a suspended game and a makeup game against the Yankees on Monday at Nationals Park. They started the day with a bang, thanks to Juan Soto's heroics in the suspended-game win, but the Nats could not secure a sweep as they fell, 4-2, in the nightcap.

"1-1. We got the win," first baseman Mark Reynolds said. "It was weird playing like three innings and then 30 minutes later playing a full game."

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WASHINGTON -- The Nationals were presented with a chance to bounce back from a rough weekend in Toronto, with a suspended game and a makeup game against the Yankees on Monday at Nationals Park. They started the day with a bang, thanks to Juan Soto's heroics in the suspended-game win, but the Nats could not secure a sweep as they fell, 4-2, in the nightcap.

"1-1. We got the win," first baseman Mark Reynolds said. "It was weird playing like three innings and then 30 minutes later playing a full game."

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It was a strange day that the Nationals can still take away as a positive, especially considering bullpen help is on the way. During the game, the team announced it had completed a trade to acquire right-hander Kelvin Herrera from the Royals in exchange for three Minor Leaguers. The addition strengthens the Nats' relief corps and adds another reliable arm to the back end of their bullpen.

"He's really good. He's been really good this year, too, so I'm excited to have him," manager Dave Martinez said. "He's going to fit right in. He's closed games, he's come in in the eighth. For me, we have an All-Star closer right now [in Sean Doolittle], so [Herrera] will be asked to do some different things."

Video: NYY@WSH: Nats finalize trade for Royals' Herrera

The Nats can also come away encourgaged with the way right-hander Erick Fedde pitched in his second straight outing against New York, giving up three runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. But they struggled to find much offense against the Yankees and right-hander Sonny Gray, who began the game with a 4.98 ERA. He struck out seven in five innings of two-run ball before turning the game over to New York's bullpen, one of the most formidable relief corps in baseball, which closed out the game with four scoreless innings.

The Nationals hope that a trade like the one they completed Monday will help them form a bullpen like the Yankees', one positioned to help take them to the next level in October.

"It takes a lot of quality arms," right-hander Ryan Madson said. "You look at any postseason team, there's a lot of quality arms out there. … So you can never too many, and quality like these. So [Herrera] will be a welcome addition."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Nationals tried to rally against left-hander Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning, placing the tying runs at first and second with one out. Chapman answered by striking out Adam Eaton before Trea Turner put a charge into a fly ball to the warning track in right field, but Aaron Judge made a running catch for the final out.

"You know what? I'm proud of the boys, I really am," Martinez said. "I've always said this -- a sign of a good team is never quitting, and we never quit. At the end of the day, we faced one of the best closers in the game and we had him on the ropes and Trea hit the ball to the warning track, so I'm really proud of them."

Video: NYY@WSH: Judge makes catch to complete Chapman's save

HE SAID IT
"I think it's awesome. It was definitely a confidence boost from Davey and from [general manager Mike Rizzo] to tell me that's still my job. It's tough because you want to add some stuff, but you don't want to have too many cooks in the kitchen. It's not necessarily that guys are super attached to their roles, but they like to know what to expect -- when they're going to pitch in a game, when to get ready, that sort of stuff. So it definitely gives us some serious weapons." -- Doolittle, on the addition of Herrera and being told he would remain the Nationals' closer

UP NEXT
The Nationals begin a three-game series with the Orioles at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Nationals Park. Washington will turn to right-hander Jefry Rodriguez, who allowed two hits over five innings on Thursday for Double-A Harrisburg. David Hess will start for Baltimore.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals

Timeline: How Scherzer became the best pitcher

It's time to face the facts: Max Scherzer is the best pitcher on the planet.

It seems like every time he's on the mound, there's a tweet or At Bat alert or heterochromatic bat signal in the sky that the Nationals starter has 10 K's through four innings (he has 10 or more in 10 of his 15 starts in 2018). He leads the league in wins, complete games, innings pitched, strikeouts, K/9, HR/9, WHIP, FIP, DIP, DRIP and DROP [Note: Some of these are not real stats, but he's probably leading in them anyway, so we're leaving it]. 

But, when did it happen? At what point did Scherzer pass Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber and Chris Sale as the pitcher you want on the mound with your life on the line? Let's quickly review his career and take a look. 

Soto, and a history of time-bending feats in MLB

MLB.com @AndrewSimonMLB