WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have done their best to navigate through the first few weeks of the season despite injuries to some of their most important hitters. Daniel Murphy (knee) has not played in a game this season. Adam Eaton (ankle) got off to a fantastic start before he landed
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have done their best to navigate through the first few weeks of the season despite injuries to some of their most important hitters. Daniel Murphy (knee) has not played in a game this season. Adam Eaton (ankle) got off to a fantastic start before he landed on the DL. And Anthony Rendon (toe) has been sidelined for about two weeks.
Those injuries are part of the reason the club entered Friday night's game against the D-backs under .500. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was not concerned about the team's slow start.
"Nobody said it would be easy," Rizzo said Friday. "We've got a target on our back. We're the National League East champs, and there are some good teams trying to chase us and get that title.
"We're trying to play good baseball until we can get some reinforcements, some of our really good players, back in the lineup. I like the fact that some younger players are getting opportunities, and I think they've fared pretty well. And I think we've played pretty well, considering the lineups that we've had out there at times aren't the lineups we thought we were going to have at the end of April."
Of the three hitters, Rendon appears closest to returning. He said his left foot felt much better Friday morning, and he was scheduled for baseball activities prior to the game. Rendon is not eligible to be activated from the DL until Sunday, and he seems on track to do so or be activated shortly after.
Eaton was scheduled to be seen by a team doctor Friday to re-evaluate the bone bruise on his left ankle. He has not appeared in a game since April 8, and although he had been testing the ankle while on the DL, the discomfort had not stopped. Rizzo said Eaton's evaluation was already scheduled and that nothing new popped up, but he will need to remain sidelined for a few days before he returns.
Murphy, who is still recovering from microfracture knee surgery in the offseason, remains the furthest away from rejoining the lineup. He remains at the team's complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he has continued rehabbing. Rizzo said Murphy is not nearly ready to go on a Minor League rehab assignment or to play in games.
"These days, it takes not only 25 [on the roster] but it takes 45 and sometimes beyond that," Rizzo said. "Who'd have thought in Spring Training that we'd have three or four non-roster invitees that have already made the club, and we're not even out of April yet? We're grinding it out. And I'm proud of the way they've played."
Other injury notes
• Right-hander Joaquin Benoit has begun a throwing program in West Palm Beach as he attempts to work his way back from a strained forearm. It's positive progress for the veteran reliever, whom the Nats signed about a week into Spring Training. The injury surfaced before the club broke camp, and he had been shut down since.
• Right-hander Shawn Kelley played some light catch in the outfield Friday, just a few days after ulnar nerve irritation in his right elbow forced him to the DL.
• Center fielder Michael A. Taylor was out of the starting lineup with a groin cramp Wednesday, so manager Dave Martinez wanted to give him an extra day of rest on Friday, although he said Taylor would be available to pinch-hit if needed.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.