Washington Nationals Face Major Test After Latest Injuries
One major theme for the Washington Nationals in recent years is injuries to key players early in the season. In 2012, it was Wilson Ramos, who tore his ACL and meniscus, as well as Jayson Werth, who broke his wrist. Ryan Zimmerman also had shoulder issues that year, and thanks to cortisone, he was still able to turn in a solid season where he hit 25 home runs and batted in 95 runs. Washington still won 98 games that year thanks to key bench players stepping up. While 2013 was relatively similar, there were more nagging injuries than major ones. Ramos and Werth were hurt again, as they both faced nagging hamstring injuries that led to multiple trips to the DL. Throw in Danny Espinosa suffering a broken wrist and being demoted, and the disaster that was Dan Haren in the rotation, and 2013 was a markedly worse season, as the Nationals won 86 games and finished 10 games back of the Atlanta Braves, whom they have won one game against this season. This season, early on, has been very similar to the past two as far as injuries go. Ramos is injured for the third straight year after hamate bone surgery, Doug Fister has yet to make a start due to lat and elbow issues, and now Zimmerman will be gone for four to six weeks with a fractured thumb after sliding head first into second base and getting picked off. Zimmerman was immediately pulled from the game, and the Nationals will be without the face of their franchise until at least early June. Every team faces injuries year in and year out, but it seems the Nationals consistently have to go months on end without key players. Although, 2012 was no issue, as key bench pieces like Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy and Roger Bernadina were able to step up and stand in adequately and help the Nationals win games. As we saw in 2013, benches can be inconsistent because, well, the players on it are not consistent enough to be every day players. Luckily, GM Mike Rizzo recognized that and was able to augment the bench for the 2014 season, with pickups like Nate McLouth, Kevin Frandsen, Jose Lobaton and even Espinosa — all players with experience playing every day more consistently than their predecessors. This season, the Nationals face a major gut check with their most recent slew of injuries, as they have the added pressure of proving that their 2013 campaign, not their 2012 campaign, was the fluke. Luckily, they have the tools they need to take advantage of this opportunity. Their Spring Training was an opportunity for new manager Matt Williams to really get a look at who they have in the minors in the event of a major injury, and now players are getting that opportunity. The players being called up will be hungrier to prove themselves than years past, so the outlook has to be more positive. All in all, these injuries will be a major test for Washington, and will most likely be the key to a successful season, or another disappointing one.