WASHINGTON -- A newly healthy and once again powerful heart of the Nationals' lineup has keyed the team's recent hot streak, but very few people could've expected the contributions of Jhonatan Solano.
The 26-year-old catcher was called up to the big leagues just five weeks ago, and in nine games he has gone 11-for-28 (.393) with two home runs and six RBIs. Consider that his principal responsibility -- at least, initially -- was allowing the frequently banged-up Jesus Flores to get an occasional off-day.
Solano continued his stunning emergence in Wednesday night's 9-4 win over the Giants, enjoying his third multi-hit game with a 2-for-4 day at the plate. His solo home run in the fourth inning put the Nats ahead for good, pushing the young catcher further into the Independence Day spotlight.
"At this point, I worry about just my defense, helping the pitchers," Solano said. "I know I'm a young guy; I just got called up to the big leagues. What I worry about is just calling the game. I tell myself when I hit, just make good contact. I'm trying to do the little things of baseball."
After Solano's latest strong outing, manager Davey Johnson effusively lauded the team's depth at catcher. Solano is the Nats' fifth catcher this season, needing injuries to Flores, Wilson Ramos, Sandy Leon and Carlos Maldonado to finally get his shot in the Majors.
"I've said it before: I've never seen such depth in catching as in this organization," Johnson said. "I've never been in an organization -- this is my fifth one -- anywhere close to that."
Considering Mark DeRosa has just returned to the bench and Chad Tracy -- the team's best pinch-hitter before a groin tear sidelined him in late May -- is expected back after the All-Star break, the Nationals are enjoying a lineup deeper than most expected after Jayson Werth broke his wrist in the 27th game of the season.
"I feel great right now because everyone's playing good," Solano said. "It's a little pressure, but I try to do everything good because I don't want to look like, 'Oh, he's the only guy that can do nothing.'"
Injured Nationals nearing returns
WASHINGTON -- As the Nationals continue to tear through the National League, the thought of additional reinforcements coming after the All-Star break grows more promising by the day.
Jayson Werth is expected to return in early August after fracturing his left wrist on May 6. Manager Davey Johnson said Werth looked good while shagging fly balls during batting practice before Wednesday's game against the Giants, though the 33-year-old right fielder isn't ready to begin swinging the bat again.
"He said it still bothers him to extend in a hitting motion, so he's not going to do anything with the bat," Johnson said. "I would think he's not going to be doing too much swinging or anything like that until after the [All-Star] break."
In 27 games before his injury, Werth was batting .276 with an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .810. Since then, the Nationals' outfield has rounded into unexpectedly proficient shape with the addition of Bryce Harper, the emergence of Steve Lombardozzi and Michael Morse's return from injury in early June.
The Nats are also awaiting the return of their top hitter off the bench, Chad Tracy, and last year's closer, Drew Storen. After tearing a muscle in his right groin on May 26, Tracy began a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac on Wednesday night, going 0-for-3 with a walk and one run scored. In his 49 at-bats before the injury, Tracy was hitting .265 with three homers and 12 RBIs.
Though Tracy will slide back into his primary role as a pinch-hitter, Johnson wants him to rehab fully before returning after the All-Star break.
"With that kind of injury, I'd like him to get used to playing nine innings because I do like to keep him fresh by playing nine innings," Johnson said. "He needs the repetition of the at-bats to help his timing."
Storen, meanwhile, will start for Potomac on Thursday night and pitch one inning. After April 11 surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow, Storen has missed the entire season while seeing his closest friend on the team, fellow reliever Tyler Clippard, seize hold of the closer job. Johnson has said that even when Storen returns, Clippard will be the closer for the foreseeable future.
"[Storen will] start out for me seeing how he's throwing in a few appearances," Johnson said. "Obviously, if I like the way he's throwing and I feel like he's able to bounce back, I wouldn't have any qualms about sliding him in occasionally to take a little heat off of Clippard."
Johnson approves of Nats' throwback night
WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson was happy to participate in Turn Back the Clock Night at the ballpark Thursday on two conditions: the uniforms aren't made of wool, and it doesn't make him feel too old.
"I'm just happy that I'm not that old so I don't recognize that uniform," Johnson said when he saw the team's 1924 throwbacks before Thursday's game. "I think it looks good."
The Nationals and Giants paid homage to their 1924 clubs -- Washington was the Senators at the time, but also referred to as the Nationals -- by wearing retro jerseys, while the ballpark staff wore replica uniforms.
The club also had special offers on concessions, organ music throughout the game and video tributes to the 1924 club.
Johnson said it's a good opportunity to look back on the players he grew up admiring.
"I think the only person I can remember on that team was [Walter 'Big Train' Johnson], a fire-balling right-hander," Johnson said. "It'll be fun. All those old-timers were guys that I looked up to and followed their careers. It's going to be fun."
Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.