ATLANTA -- Draped over Brian Goodwin's chair in the visitors' clubhouse at SunTrust Park on Friday was a Harrisburg Senators jersey, the Nationals' Double-A affiliate. Goodwin laughed and said he forgot to return it before he left his Minor League rehab assignment. However, he could be forgiven, considering he was
ATLANTA -- Draped over Brian Goodwin's chair in the visitors' clubhouse at SunTrust Park on Friday was a Harrisburg Senators jersey, the Nationals' Double-A affiliate. Goodwin laughed and said he forgot to return it before he left his Minor League rehab assignment. However, he could be forgiven, considering he was there much longer than anticipated.
Goodwin was activated from the disabled list Friday after missing 39 games with a wrist injury that he revealed was actually a bone bruise and a few sprained ligaments. The team initially only disclosed he had sprained his wrist, but his absence took much longer than he or anyone else planned.
"Anytime you have like an expectation in your head and it kind of goes past it, you kind a get a little wary," Goodwin said. "But they were taking care of me down there. I was surrounded by good people, I had a good support system. ... They helped pushed me through and we made it back."
Goodwin returns to the starting lineup for Friday night's game against the Braves, where he is playing center field and batting sixth. He played in four rehab games with Harrisburg where he went 3-for-15 with a home run, three walks and four runs scored. More importantly, he no longer felt discomfort in his wrist and felt great hitting and fielding.
Goodwin gives the Nationals' injury-depleted outfield a boost -- he provides versatility off the bench and can be a reliable starter when someone needs an off-day. Andrew Stevenson was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse in his place.
"We'll get him in there," manager Dave Martinez said. "He's a nice guy to have because he plays all three positions in the outfield. Can pinch-run and steal a base. Pinch-hit, drive the ball and hit the ball a long way. It's nice to have him back."
Decisions looming in outfield
The Nationals' outfield is finally nearing full strength, meaning the club will have some decisions to make soon. Bryce Harper is entrenched in right field, but the Nats have four outfielders for two spots once everyone returns to full strength.
Goodwin is back from the DL and Adam Eaton began a Minor League rehab assignment at Harrisburg on Friday. It is unclear how they factor into the lineup, with Michael A. Taylor as the team's center fielder and rookie Juan Soto having success in his first taste of the Majors in left field.
With the versatility to be used in all spots, Goodwin will almost certainly remain a reserve, meaning the Nats will have to determine whether Soto's hot start is good enough to keep him in the Majors once Eaton returns. In his first 11 games in the Majors, Soto has been far from overmatched, even at the age of 19, and is hitting .333/.415/.500 while holding his own in left field.
Meanwhile, Taylor has not replicated his breakout season from a year ago and is hitting .204/.273/.356 in 55 games this season. But Taylor's defense has been elite: Entering Friday, he was sixth among all Major League center fielders with six defensive runs saved. That was good enough for an endorsement from his manager on Friday.
"For me, Michael's the center fielder," Martinez said. "He saves us a lot of runs out there, he really does. I always said it: I look at him as a Gold Glover, I really do. And he's swinging the bat better."
Martinez's words aside, Eaton is leading off and playing center field during the first game of his rehab assignment, not left field, where he began the season.
• Daniel Murphy (right knee surgery) is batting third at Harrisburg on Friday night and will continue his rehab assignment through the weekend before he is re-evaluated on Monday. If all goes well, it is possible he could be activated for Tuesday night's game in Washington.
• Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) has been taking batting practice and running on the field during this road trip. Zimmerman will be seen by a team doctor when the team returns to Washington, after which he is likely to begin a Minor League rehab assignment.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.