WASHINGTON -- Injuries were a large factor in a disappointing first half for the Nationals, but they are getting close to full strength and in position -- they believe -- to make a charge toward a third straight division title.
They got even healthier on Friday, when they activated Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg from the disabled list prior to their 8-5 loss to the Braves, the team directly in front of Washington in the National League East. Washington optioned Wander Suero and Trevor Gott to Triple-A Syracuse to clear room on the roster.
"The first half is over," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "I told them it's gone, there's nothing we can do about the first half. Today's Day 1, so let's move on from here."
Zimmerman did not start at first base, but he did ground out to second as a pinch-hitter in the sixth. Instead, Matt Adams was in the lineup with a right-hander on the mound. Adams, one of the Nats' most consistent hitters this season, hit his 16th homer in his 69th game of the year. Zimmerman struggled in his first 33 games of 2018, with a .689 OPS and five home runs before he landed on the DL with a strained right oblique on May 12, retroactive to May 10.
So while Martinez stopped short of calling their situation a strict platoon, he did hint that playing time will be split between the two, along with Mark Reynolds as well, for now.
"I think the past couple years, we've signed a really good left-handed guy to complement me over there," Zimmerman said. "At the end of the day, it's just about winning games."
Added Martinez: "[Zimmerman] gets it. We talked. He said however he can help the team win, he's all in. When he gets hot, of course, he can carry us. As soon as he starts getting going and gets his feet on the ground, of course he'll probably play a lot more."
Doolittle throws off mound
Sean Doolittle jogged and threw off a mound Friday, and although he acknowledged he still has some limitations, his foot is feeling "significantly better" than it did when he first landed on the DL with left toe inflammation on July 10 (retroactive to July 7).
"Today was a good day," Doolittle said. "I'm disappointed that I'm not ready to come off just yet, but we are making progress and we're moving in the right direction."
By sending down Suero and Gott, the Nats are carrying just six relievers for now, but Martinez said they cannot operate with a short bullpen for long.