Eaton, Taylor 'very, very close' to return

Outfield duo played in Minor League game Thursday

March 15th, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Both of the Nationals' rehabbing outfielders could return to Grapefruit League action as soon as this weekend. Manager Dave Martinez would not outright reveal the team's plan, but said both left fielder and center fielder Michael A. Taylor are "very, very close" to playing in games.
"We're shooting for maybe one day this weekend," said Martinez, who then paused and laughed at the non-committal statement.
Both Eaton and Taylor played in a Minor League game on the backfields of the Nationals' complex Thursday afternoon. It's not the first time they have taken at-bats in the games, but they also played the field. Neither player was scheduled to appear in Friday's game against the Cardinals.
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Eaton, who is recovering from a torn left ACL, has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game this spring. Taylor has been sidelined with tightness in his right side that has kept him out of action for most of this month. The Nationals are still confident both players will be ready to begin the season on time.
"We're very optimistic for those two guys," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "They've had plenty of at-bats. Eaton ran well yesterday. And Michael Taylor is swinging the bat extremely well."

The Nationals have spent the overwhelming majority of spring camp without their best lineup. Taylor has been limited recently, first baseman has played in just one game while second baseman and Eaton have yet to appear in a big league contest. Still, the Nats remained confident that they have enough time to get everyone back to full strength.
Murphy (knee) still not close to game action 
And Rizzo did not have many questions about what he would see from Eaton, who has not played in nearly a year since he suffered the torn ACL.
"In my mind, I really haven't had much of a question of it this year," Rizzo said. "But it's going to be nice to be at full strength when he's back. It'll be good. I know what he brings to the roster and to the lineup, and I know all of the little things he brings. So it'll be great to have him back."
Romero still dismissed
Seth Romero, the Nationals' first-round Draft pick this past June, remains back home in Houston after he was sent home earlier this month for a violation of club rules.
Romero reportedly violated a number of team policies, which included curfew violations and repeatedly being late, which caused the Nats to send him home indefinitely. Rizzo did not have any sort of timetable for Romero's return to camp because Romero has to earn his way back into the team's good graces first.
"He has to show something to me that he deserves the honor of being back in camp," Rizzo said.
Position battle update
Left-hander Tommy Milone had a forgettable outing in Thursday's 12-3 loss to the Astros. Ideally, the Nats wanted to stretch Milone's arm out for a lengthy outing, but he struggled to give up three runs on five hits and two walks and only lasted two innings. Even though it was not the outcome Milone wanted as he auditions for a role as the potential fifth starter and/or for rotation depth, the lefty still took it in stride.
"I think in the past, I would have put a lot of pressure on myself," Milone said. "But I think this time around I've just kind of accepted the fact that I'm here to pitch. Obviously, I'm trying to make the team, but also at the same time, I just want to go out there and be the pitcher that I am and not try to do too much."
Milone started in place of , who threw five innings in a Minor League game on the backfields instead of starting Thursday's game against the Astros. 
"We would never keep him on the bench. He'll play every day." -- Rizzo, on the possibly of top prospect making the Opening Day roster as a fourth outfielder
Up next
The Nationals host the Cardinals on Friday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. ET at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches with left-hander set to take the mound, live on MLB.TV.