ATLANTA — The Nationals, as expected, promoted Michael Taylor from Class AAA on Sunday, clearing a roster spot for their top outfield prospect by placing Steven Souza Jr. on the 15-day disabled list with a left shoulder contusion.
Taylor was summoned by the Nationals on Saturday evening, pulled from Syracuse's starting lineup at the last minute so he could gather his belongings and travel to Atlanta on Sunday morning, well before their nationally televised game against the Braves. The 23-year-old outfielder had just been promoted to Class AAA from Class AA Harrisburg on Monday, leading to a whirlwind week that began in the Eastern League and ended at Turner Field, where Taylor arrived early Sunday and admired the sights plus his No. 18 Nationals jersey.
"I've gotten pretty good at packing the last few days," said Taylor, who came straight from the airport and arrived hours before any other Nationals did. "It's very exciting and definitely what I wanted. This is where I wanted to be, and I'm happy to get the opportunity."
This is the culmination of long-awaited journey for Taylor, the Nationals' ninth-round pick in the 2009 draft. He spent three full seasons at low- and high-Class A, bottoming out at Potomac in 2012 when he hit .242 with only three homers. Always gifted in the outfield, Taylor's offensive game finally caught up this season at Harrisburg, where he hit .313 with 22 homers, 34 stolen bases and a .935 OPS in 98 games.
"I've always had confidence in my ability, but to finally have a little success on the field, it's great," he said. "It's nice to be able to help the team when you're out there. I had some pretty bad struggles the first few years in the minors, so it was nice to be able to put a good season together."
Taylor was promoted to Syracuse on Monday, the domino effect of Souza's promotion to the big leagues. And when Souza injured his shoulder in a violent collision with the right-field wall at Turner Field on Friday night, Taylor was the logical choice for another promotion over Syracuse teammate Tyler Moore, who is hitting .283 with a .369 on-base percentage at Syracuse.
"You look at T-Mo potentially, he doesn't play center and he doesn't play right, for the most part," manager Matt Williams said. "He plays left and first. And we've kind of got guys who fill that roll. So potentially we need help in center (with Denard Span due for a day off) and potentially need help in right, so Michael fits that."
Souza, meanwhile, is headed back to Washington to get an MRI on his right shoulder. The rookie outfielder fell to the ground in a heap after trying to rob Freddie Freeman's second-inning homer Friday night, and though he remained in that game for another inning and came in to pinch-run in the 11th inning Saturday night, he remained injured enough to require a DL stint.
"We put him through some tests yesterday. Couldn't swing," Williams said. "It was really painful to swing the bat. So we decided to go ahead and send him back. He's going to get an MRI, see the doctor, make sure that it's OK. It's getting better, but if he's not able to play, then we have to make a change and take a serious look at it. He hit that wall pretty hard, man."