Nationals outfielder Nate McLouth had successful surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder on Thursday, effectively ending his 2014 season. Now, with five weeks left to go, the Nationals will look to fill the position he was expected to hold down with the playoffs in mind.
Veteran Nate Schierholtz - who was signed to a minor league deal on Aug. 18 - is playing at Triple-A Syracuse currently. The 30-year-old has had 10 plate appearances through two games with the Chiefs, posting three hits and four RBI, including a home run.
"He's getting his timing back after not having played in some time," manager Matt Williams said.
"He played right, he DH'd and played center. He's getting some at-bats and working his way back to feeling good at the plate. He needs those at-bats, really. He just hasn't played in a while. So, like anybody else coming back from injury or any of that, they need to have at-bats."
Schierholtz could provide a veteran option instead of rookies Steven Souza, Jr. and Michael A. Taylor, who are also technically vying for the same spot. There could be one open position on the Nationals bench come October and Schierholtz has an advantage in both experience and the fact he bats left-handed.
Williams is hopeful the Nats can evaluate him soon and get him to Washington the moment he's ready. When that will be, however, is unclear.
MLB rosters expand on Sept. 1 and the Nationals could wait until then.
"We can also wait," Williams said. "When that is, we don't know. We want him ready when he's ready and be able to be up here and be productive. We don't want to rush him in that regard. There's no need to do that at this point. We want to make sure his timing is good and he's ready to play when he gets here."
On the topic of September call-ups, Williams said the Nationals are discussing who will come up, but nothing has been decided yet. Williams does not believe the team's first place record will have any effect on who or how many they bring up.
"The first place standing doesn't mean anything. We want to make sure we have the players here that can help us win games in every form and fashion," he said.
"It doesn't matter standings-wise where we're at. We want to win. If they can help us win in that regard then that's great."
One factor that could come into play is Syracuse's own playoff run. The Chiefs are in first place in the International League at 75-55, also 20 games above .500 just like their major league partners.
"We've had those discussions, but no final decisions on anything yet. The guys in Triple-A have a chance to be in the playoffs and play beyond. We'll see how it all shakes out."