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Taylor returns to lineup with a bang

Aug 31, 2015, 6:00 AM EST

USA Today

When the Nationals realized on Thursday that center fielder Denard Span would be lost for the season, they knew exactly who to turn to. Sitting on their bench was rookie Michael Taylor, the heir apparent at the position, who had mostly thrived this season while Span was recovering from injuries.

But then Thursday night’s game transpired and Taylor himself got hurt. The 24-year-old slammed into the center field wall at Nationals Park after leaping on a full sprint. His cleat caught the bottom of the wall and ripped a hole in the green padding. With the contact his knee twisted and he was removed from the game.

The diagnosis was a right knee contusion and the consensus was that it could have been worse. The injury kept him out of Friday’s game, but he was able to pinch-hit in Saturday’s win. He then returned to the starting lineup on Sunday and played quite well. He had two hits, two runs and even made a running catch in center field, this time avoiding the wall.

It was a positive sign for the Nationals, who are still in the hunt in the NL East. Losing Span is going to hurt, but getting Taylor back and playing well will prevent that loss from becoming even more detrimental.

“No issues [with the knee],”manager Matt Williams said. “I think he’s measured in the things that he does on the field unless he’s really gotta go. Today, he really had to go and there was no issues with it.”

“That’s scary anytime a guy plays chicken with the wall. That thing’s not moving, and fortunately he was not injured too badly,” Doug Fister said. “He came back strong. He’s a big part of us as a team, and that’s a big thing for us for him to come back.”

Taylor had to let the swelling go down before he could return to the Nats’ lineup. The Nationals medical staff sent him home with a compression machine after the collision to help that cause.

Taylor is still not 100 percent, but he’s getting there.

“It feels much better now. It’s still a little swollen and kind of stiff, but everyday I think it will start to feel better and better,” he said.

Taylor’s two hits gave him his 24th multi-hit game of the season. He is now batting .243 with 13 homers, 55 RBI 39 runs and 15 steals. He’s still a raw talent, but has proven what he is capable of this season.

“Mikey’s been huge all year,” Clint Robinson said. “He’s going to continue to go out and be our every day center fielder. He’s been huge for this team. He’s been having a really good rookie season, I think. He’s very important to us and he’s a heck of a player.”

“He’s been great. I can’t say enough about the kid,” Jayson Werth said. “He’s been learning on the job. He’s matured a lot this year. Last year he had a great year in the minors and came up. This year he’s got a chance to play. It’s been good to see his development and see the type of player he can be. There have been a lot of good signs from him, not only this season but for the future and seasons ahead. He looks like a big leaguer to me.”

Taylor is still a rookie and is inevitably going to make mistakes as long as he is still learning. But just having him back in the fold improves the Nats’ outlook for the rest of this season.

  1. alexva6 - Aug 31, 2015 at 8:24 AM

    the scouting reports of the past that I read on MAT compared him to Mike Cameron. seems like they were right on him, good defense, power, speed, but not high average.

    • unkyd59 - Aug 31, 2015 at 1:08 PM

      I’m not writing off his ability to hit for avg, any time soon. With that quick, compact swing, I think he has a good chance to hit for high avg, as his pitch recognition improves…

  2. ArVAFan - Aug 31, 2015 at 9:14 AM

    Can I say “Ouch” on that headline?

    Also, can we record this as a time when the Nats medical staff did not understate or overstate an injury? (Quick check out window for flying pigs . . . Oh, wait, there’s one in the Twitter feed).

  3. NatsLady - Aug 31, 2015 at 10:16 AM

    .311/.388/.541 Our Nats (non-pitchers) over the last seven days (11 homers). Where, O where, have you been?????

    As unbelievable as it would have sounded at the All-Star Break, Desi could conceivably have another 20/20 season. He’s at 17 homers and 12 stolen bases. Also, his errors have dropped drastically, he looks alert and his arm is still a cannon. He’ll make a good buck in free agency, and he’ll make even more if he can put some postseason WINS on his resume. Right? Right.

    • raleighnat - Aug 31, 2015 at 2:31 PM

      Desi’s strong finish is good for everyone. Means he’s obviously helping us, he will now get paid, and team can make a qualifying offer to get draft pick.

  4. Eugene in Oregon - Aug 31, 2015 at 10:36 AM

    So, Nats open a three-game series tonight in St. Louis against the team many observers say is the best in baseball. The Mets open a three-game series tonight in New York against the Phillies, who many describe as the worst team in baseball. For several weeks now I’ve known this day was coming. I had just hoped — and expected — that the Nats would be closer than 5.5 games out when it arrived.

    • Muddy Ruel - Aug 31, 2015 at 10:51 AM

      There hasn’t been much if any magic in the Nats’ 2015 season. I’m hoping for some these next 3 days. Ya never know. Baseballs gods are mischievous and may like this.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Aug 31, 2015 at 11:13 AM

        From your keyboard to those mischievous gods’ ears…

      • TimDz - Aug 31, 2015 at 11:43 AM

        Most folks saw the Mets sweeping the Red Sox, but nearly the opposite happened. Maybe the Mets are due for a cooling off period….

      • sec112 - Aug 31, 2015 at 11:44 AM

        I have this horrible memory of being still in it in 2013 until being swept in 3 close games in St Louis in late September. Too early this time to eliminate us, but a similar series outcome would pretty much have the same result on this season.

      • Steady Eddie - Aug 31, 2015 at 12:14 PM

        112, that 2013 memory somewhat overdramatizes the context of that series. We were one game away from elimination going into St.Louis with six games still to play, so we were essentially out of it already. After we lost the first game 4-3, what little air was left in the balloon escaped and left the team completely flat for the next two games (next game was the 2-0 loss where Zim’s infield single broke up Wacha’s no-no attempt with two outs in the ninth).

        Still, this is an important test at a reasonable time if we really have post-season aspirations. Over the past dozen games, the team has come together fairly well against weak competition. If we are going to get hot enough, especially against the Mets, and the Mets deflate enough for us to take the East over the next five weeks, we will need the confidence and little bit of swagger that taking two of three from the NL’s best would give. Win less than two, especially if we’re not intensely competitive in the losses, and the hill is a lot steeper.

    • langleyclub - Aug 31, 2015 at 11:58 AM

      Who would’ve thought that with the Cards facing Gio, Ross and Max, and that the best chance for a quality start would be Joe Ross? Don’t agree with Boswell often, but when the season is dissected after its over, the starting pitching has been the biggest disappointment. They didn’t have to be the best in baseball, but they had to be better than mediocre, and they’re not. Joe Ross was the team’s best pitcher in August, and he wasn’t even expected to pitch above AA this season.

      Post ASB here are the numbers for the Nats “Big 5”:

      Jordan Z 3-3 3.90 ERA 1.14 WHP
      Gio 3-3 4.39 ERA 1.59 WHIP
      Max 1-4 5.04 ERA 1.35 WHIP
      Fister 2-3 5.58 ERA 1.6 WHIP

      Stras has been the best: 3-1 2.70 ERA 0.80 WHIP, but he has given the Nats only 30 innings over the last 2 plus months.

      • adcwonk - Aug 31, 2015 at 12:10 PM

        Yep — Nats ERA is 7th in NL.

        On the hitting side, interestingly, Nats are 11th in BA, but 4th in runs scored (because we’re 5th in SLG — 3rd in HRs)

  5. Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 31, 2015 at 2:05 PM

    Taylor is still a rookie and is inevitably going to make mistakes as long as he is still learning.

    I predict he will continue to make mistakes even then, because everybody else does. But he is learning quickly, and seldom keeps making the same rookie mistakes. Let’s hope going into a wall at full speed is one he doesn’t make again. Bryce, talk to him.

  6. thewerthwhisperer - Aug 31, 2015 at 2:33 PM

    Sweeter than a win ‘gainst the Orioles at The Yard will be
    3 out of 3 from those Redbirds – the Cards
    Then a sweep of the Braves for our valiant team
    Then come the Mets
    Hey, can’t a guy dream?

  7. letswin3 - Aug 31, 2015 at 5:00 PM

    It’s hard for rookies with promise to get enough starts and at bats to find out what they’re made of. Well, circumstances being what they are, Michael got extended innings, starts and at bats, and he’s shown me that he belongs. His defense has been better than good, although I think he can still be more aggressive in calling off others when pursuing fly balls. His base-running has been better than most of us would have imagined, although we knew he could run. And his hitting, although not yet making enough contact or producing a good average, has been both productive (rbi’s) and improved. He’s taking pitches over the last few weeks that he would’ve swung wildly at in May, and he seems to be (?) fouling off more good pitches these days too. I’ve liked him since I first saw him, and I think he’s going to be a solid Zimmerman-like hitter when he fully matures … by that I mean a solid 270-285 hitter, with power that will get even better as he matures physically and a sense for timely hitting. And it’s always nice to have an center fielder who can go get em.

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