MINNEAPOLIS -- Ahead of a rare three-game series in Minnesota, the Nationals were hopeful that catcher Kurt Suzuki won’t miss much time with inflammation in his right elbow, but left-handed reliever Roenis Elias didn't join the team on the trip as he deals with a Grade 1 strain of his right hamstring.
Washington manager Dave Martinez called Suzuki day to day, and the hope is anti-inflammatory medication will help Suzuki return soon. Martinez said the 35-year-old catcher could return quicker in a pinch-hitting capacity.
Meanwhile, Elias stayed in Washington to rehab his hamstring strain, the second such injury for Elias since he was acquired from the Mariners on July 31.
“We’re going to get him back on some machines and get him strengthening again, and then we’ll re-evaluate him when we get back home,” Martinez said.
Elias has thrown three innings in four appearances for the Nationals with a 9.00 ERA.
His absence leaves Washington with a shortage of left-handed relievers, even with the expanded September rosters. Sean Doolittle has returned, and Martinez would like to get him back into the closer’s role eventually, but Martinez acknowledged that Doolittle could be used in setup situations depending on the opponent’s lineup.
Martinez said he could look to right-handers Wander Suero, Tanner Rainey and Hunter Strickland to face left-handed hitters.
“I want to get Doolittle back in that late-inning role, and he’s our only lefty,” Martinez said. “Now, Suero becomes really important. I like Rainey at times against some lefties because when he’s throwing strikes, his stuff is electric. And Strickland, we talked to Strickland about utilizing all his pitches instead of just throwing fastballs. His changeup’s really good. His curveball’s really good. When he faces those lefties, just utilize all his pitches. We’re counting on Suero, Rainey and Strickland to get those lefties out.”
Catcher Yan Gomes will be relied upon to fill a bigger role with Suzuki’s injury. Gomes had two home runs in Sunday’s victory.
“He gets it; I talked to him the night Zuk got hurt,” Martinez said of Gomes. “I said, ‘Hey, you’re going to catch [Max] Scherzer tomorrow, and you’re going to catch, you might have to be in there for some time.’”
The Nationals hope time without Suzuki is limited. The team got good news after an MRI on Sunday came back clean and revealed the inflammation.
In 301 plate appearances this season, Suzuki is hitting .260/.319/.473 with 16 homers.
“He’s day to day right now and doing some strengthening stuff,” Martinez said. “I know he’s on some anti-inflammatory, so once that kicks in, hopefully the pain will [subside] a little bit and we go from there. We want to get him back, but we want to make sure he’s back and close to 100 percent.”
Voth stays in rotation; Scherzer scheduled for Friday
Austin Voth will remain in the rotation after filling in for injured Joe Ross on Saturday and allowing two runs in four innings against the Braves. Voth will be pushed back one day, allowing Scherzer to start on Friday at home against Atlanta.
“He did really well,” Martinez said of Voth. “Hopefully, his next outing we can get him up to 85, 90 pitches and we’ll go from there.”
Scherzer threw in the bullpen on Tuesday, and Martinez said Scherzer “felt really good.”
Dozier and Suzuki honored in Minnesota
Nationals second baseman Brian Dozier and Suzuki were honored before the game on Tuesday with a video tribute.
Dozier spent seven seasons with the Twins and is among the top 10 on the team’s all-time list with 167 home runs. Suzuki played in Minnesota for three seasons, being named to the All-Star team in 2014.