04/30/2013 12:53 AM ET
Nats not worried about slow start on defense
By Jon Cooper / Special to MLB.com
ATLANTA -- The Nationals pride themselves on their pitching and their defense.
That's why their current defensive standing is so puzzling.
Heading into the four-game series with the Atlanta Braves, the Nationals ranked 30th in the Majors in the number of errors made (23) and fielding percentage (.976). That's a drastic departure from 2012, when they committed only 94 errors all season, eighth in baseball, and fielded .985, tied for sixth.
First baseman Adam LaRoche believes that their troubles are just a blip on the radar.
"I'm thinking it was just a fluke stretch, where there were a couple of bad hops, a couple of bad throws, whatever it is. You look up and we're leading the league in errors," said LaRoche, a career .995 fielder, who is right at that mark thus far in 2013, having committed but one error entering the series opener. "It's obviously not where you want to be, but no need to worry. I don't think anybody's worried about the error situation, because I think everybody looks at it the same way I'm talking about, it's just being kind of a fluke and some bad timing.
"I can almost guarantee you that we're not going to finish anywhere near the bottom, as far as errors go, at the end of the year," he added. "For whatever reason, the first month, we had a ton of them. It seemed like every time we kicked a ball, they would come back and score a couple of runs and make the most of it. So that got magnified a little bit. I'm not worried about it. Guys are too good. We've got proven guys that have done this for a few years that are great defenders and are just having some bad breaks."
Shortstop Ian Desmond agrees.
"We're not playing our best baseball, but we've still got our foot in the door," said Desmond, a career .958 fielder, who stood at an uncharacteristically low .939 in April entering play Monday, with an even more uncharacteristic NL-high seven miscues. "We haven't dug ourselves into a hole. So it's only going to get better. If we start playing our best baseball, expect more wins."
Heading into action Monday night, Washington was 7-2 when they played errorless baseball, 6-10 when they committed an error.
Davey expects Werth to rest hamstring, ankle
ATLANTA -- With concern centering around Stephen Strasburg following Monday's 3-2 loss to the Braves, the offense also may not have come out unscathed.
Right fielder Jayson Werth, the team's second-leading home run hitter and run producer, injured his right hamstring. He came up in the eighth inning but told manager Davey Johnson that he would be unable to get around the bases.
"He had a tight [hamstring] going up," said Johnson. "He said, 'Maybe I can hit one out, but if I get on, you'll have to run for me.'"
As if to reinforce that he wasn't going to do any running, Werth fouled a 2-1 pitch off his left ankle. He'd strike out swinging two pitches later.
Johnson said afterward that he expected Werth to get a couple of days off to rest.
Ramos returns from DL, but sits for opener
ATLANTA -- The Nationals like what they see when Wilson Ramos is in the lineup.
They're about to get another look, although they'll probably have to wait another 24 hours.
Ramos, who has been out of the lineup since injuring his left hamstring on April 13, rejoined the team in Atlanta on Monday after being activated from the 15-day DL and was in the clubhouse at Turner Field as the Nats prepared to kick off their four-game series with the Braves.
"I'm excited to be with the team again," said Ramos, who was hitting .300 with two homers and six RBIs prior to injuring his hamstring, and was 2-for-4 with a double, a walk and a run scored in two rehab games with Double-A Harrisburg. "I'm a little bit sad because I lost two weeks. But I'm happy now to be here with the team and try to help the team win games."
Barring a pinch-hitting opportunity, Ramos will rest one more day, as manager Davey Johnson chose to start Kurt Suzuki behind the plate.
"I don't treat hamstrings anything but lightly," said Johnson. "I worry about him re-injuring it. He didn't do anything yesterday. He took the day completely off, which told me he might have been a little sore from catching, and we traveled. I'm just being overly cautious. I'd rather be safe than sorry."
Ramos has hit 21 homers and driven in 69 runs, with a .775 OPS in 159 games over three-plus years since being acquired from Minnesota, but he had his 2012 season derailed after only 25 games when he tore his right ACL and meniscus on May 12. The injury required a pair of surgeries.
He's kept a sense of humor about having to sit due to a left leg injury now that he's about to return.
"That's even," he said, with a laugh. "That's even now."
In order to activate Ramos, the Nationals returned catcher Jhonatan Solano to Triple-A Syracuse. Solano hit .167 (1-for-6) in three games.
Chipper watches video with buddy LaRoche
ATLANTA -- During the course of his 19-year career, former Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones hit .299 with 41 homers and 161 RBIs against the Expos/Nationals.
The thought of Jones' retirement at the end of the 2012 season probably gave the Nats a feeling of relief, just knowing they wouldn't have to see him ever again when they go to Turner Field.
After Monday afternoon, the Nats and their faithful may need to reconsider.
Jones, a close friend of first baseman Adam LaRoche, stopped by the clubhouse to see his buddy and to chat.
LaRoche, in the midst of an 0-for-26 slump which had dropped his average to .135 entering play Monday, and Jones -- always one to share his knowledge, something they frequently did when the two were teammates from 2004 through 2006 and again in 2009 -- went to go watch video.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson was not concerned about LaRoche's slump and was all for the session with Jones.
"He's a veteran player, he's been through it. He's a quality hitter and I'm not worried that much about it," said Johnson about LaRoche's slump. "I saw Chipper earlier, and he was going to talk with his good buddy. I said, 'Yeah. Get him feeling good, and I have a couple more guys you can talk to, too.'
"Just talking to a great hitter, after you leave the conversation, you feel like you're better," Johnson added making reference to similar chats he had with Al Kaline and Ted Williams. "Every conversation I ever had with Ted Williams, when he was managing the Senators, I'd go out and get two or three hits. I think it's great. I think more today, more players do talk because of the phones and the texts. I think it's good."
He probably thought it was even better after LaRoche snapped out of his slump in the second inning, lining a 1-2 pitch from Atlanta starter Julio Teheran into center field, starting the Nats' two-run rally to take the lead.
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.