Sacrifice a chicken? Nationals injuries mounting
By HOWARD FENDRICH
WASHINGTON (AP) After a 48-hour span when a pair of catchers went on the disabled list and joined the starting left fielder and right fielder, the closer and the fill-in closer, Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson was talking aloud about "superstitions to change our luck."
"Sacrifice a chicken or something," Johnson joked Tuesday before Washington's game against the San Diego Padres.
"Things just go in bunches sometimes," he noted. "But I try to always look on the bright side of things - well, here's an opportunity for another guy to get a chance to express his talent."
Carlos Maldonado became the newest member of the Nationals on Tuesday, a catcher brought up from Triple-A Syracuse. He was needed because Washington's starting catcher, Wilson Ramos, blew out his right knee Saturday and could be out for the season, and the guy called up to replace Ramos on the roster, Sandy Leon, went on the DL on Tuesday with a high right ankle sprain. Ramos was shifted to the 60-day DL.
"This is getting ridiculous," Johnson said.
It doesn't just seem as if the Nationals are losing players on a nearly daily basis - they really are.
A dozen players have spent time on the DL this season, including third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (he's back, at least), right fielder Jayson Werth, cleanup hitter Michael Morse, closer Drew Storen and reliever Brad Lidge.
And yet the Nationals entered Tuesday with a 22-13 record, good enough for a half-game lead over the Atlanta Braves atop the NL East standings.
"You hope it stops sometime soon. I mean, you can list five or six guys right now that we need, impact guys, that are out for an extended period of time," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "Especially in this division, if we want to stay where we're at, we need to get some of those guys healthy and make sure nobody else gets hurt. I've never been a part of anything like this."
Neither, according to Johnson, has he - in nearly 30 years as a player or manager in the big leagues.
"This team's been beat up more than any I've ever had, (in terms of) front-line players," Johnson said, adding: "There's never any sympathy for anybody, so don't even bother to go there."
He recalled losing his top six pitchers, including five starters and a reliever, with the 1987 New York Mets, a year after leading that team to the World Series title. The Mets still won 92 games in `87, finishing in second place.
All told, Washington has lost 239 player-games to the DL, the fourth-most in baseball, according to STATS LCC. The Boston Red Sox have the highest total, 367, STATS said - which might have something to do with why that club is in last place in the AL East.
They key to the success so far of the 2012 Nationals?
"Our starting pitching's intact. So as long as that remains, I don't think anyone's worried about if we can keep it up," said Lidge, who had abdominal surgery and has been sidelined since April 22. "That's everything, starting pitching. If those guys go down, then we've got some other issues."
Maldonado was taking a 9-hour bus ride Monday from Syracuse to Columbus, Ohio, when he heard the news about Leon getting injured in his major league debut. Maldonado is pals with Ramos and Leon - all three are Venezuelan - and felt bad about their plights.
He also wasn't sure whether to believe it when word came on the bus that Leon was run over on a play at the plate in the fourth inning.
"I thought they were making fun of me," Maldonado said. "I was like, `Nah. It didn't happen.' But then they showed me the video, and I was like, `Oh, I guess so.' And then, like, 20 minutes later, they were calling me and telling me that I was coming up here."
And once Maldonado arrived in Washington, there was plenty of kidding in the clubhouse. Folks kept telling Maldonado to keep his catching gear on at all times, he said, "to make sure I don't get hurt."
Updated May 15, 2012