Notes: Harris close; prospects on taxi squad

August 11th, 2020

has dealt with groin injuries over his career, but none had been as bad as the discomfort that sent him to the 10-day injured list last month.

“That one was by far the worst one,” Harris said on Monday.

Harris first felt the right groin strain during an exhibition game against the Orioles, and it flared up again on July 28 in his second appearance of the regular season facing the Blue Jays. That day, he allowed two unearned runs on two hits and recorded a strikeout and a walk in two-thirds of an inning. Harris was placed on the IL on July 31, retroactive to July 29.

In battling the injury, Harris tried not to put pressure on his right side. He was early on his pitches, the ball didn’t move the way he wanted and his velocity dropped. From 2019 to this season, his cutter is down from 91.2 mph to 89.6 mph and his curveball is down from 81.3 mph to 80.0 mph.

“I think any pitcher will tell you,” Harris said, “when you have a groin injury, you can still kind of do it, but you obviously favor it a lot and you don’t want to feel that pulling anymore.”

Harris is one of five players on the Nationals’ taxi squad for their first road trip of the season. He is scheduled to throw 15-20 pitches against hitters on Tuesday. If that goes well, he expects to be cleared to return. The Nats could benefit from another healthy late-inning arm amid their recent bullpen struggles.

“I’m trying to be real patient, take it [one] day at a time,” Harris said. “As long as it’s responding well like it has, then I’m going to keep pushing forward at the pace that everybody seems to agree with.”

Eaton rests as Harrison gets the nod
Josh Harrison started in right field as Adam Eaton was out of the starting lineup for the first time this season. Nationals manager Dave Martinez noted the opportunity to give Eaton rest before a stretch of 11 games in 10 days, as well as Harrison’s success facing Mets starter Steven Matz. Harrison was 5-for-10 with two homers and four RBIs against the lefty entering Monday.

“I thought today would be a perfect day to give him a day off,” Martinez said. “He’s been playing every day. Getting Josh in there against Matz I thought was a good thing.”

Eaton opened the season with a seven-game hitting streak. Since then, he is 2-for-18 in his last five games. Eaton went 1-for-3 on Sunday afternoon against the Orioles, and he told Martinez he had a hard time seeing the ball.

“He’s going to be fine,” Martinez said. “He’s hit some balls hard earlier, kind of fallen off a little bit. For me, he’s got to stay on the ball and use the whole field. He’s really good when he starts driving the ball to left-center field. We need him.”

Prospects join Nats for road trip
The Nationals are on the road, which means they can travel with an additional five players on their taxi squad. In addition to Harris, Martinez selected outfielder Andrew Stevenson, infielder Luis García (the Nats’ No. 2 prospect, per MLB Pipeline), southpaw Seth Romero (No. 11) and catcher Raudy Read (No. 28).

Garcia and Romero are eyeing their Major League debuts, which could happen this season.

“I want them to get used to just being around us,” Martinez said of the prospects. “But also, too, Garcia could play short, he could play second. He can even play third base if need be, if something happens. It’s good.

“Romero’s just another left-handed arm. He’s been throwing the ball well [at the alternate training site] in Fredericksburg, [Va.], so I wanted to put eyes on him and get him up here. But if somebody goes down, he’s another guy we feel like could help us in the bullpen, or even spot start.”