Den Dekker makes most of first start

The Washington Post Sunday - - BASEBALL - Ex­cerpted from wash­ing­ton­ na­tion­als jour­nal — Chelsea Janes

In the midst of a topsy-turvy cou­ple months, out­fielder Matt den Dekker found him­self plopped him into the Washington Na­tion­als’ start­ing lineup Fri­day night with about an hour’s no­tice. The 27-year-old should be used to such last-minute changes by now: He bat­tled for a spot on the Mets’ ros­ter through­out spring train­ing only to be sent to the Na­tion­als a week be­fore open­ing day in the trade that sent Jerry Blevins to New York. When the sea­son be­gan, he was off to Class AAA Syra­cuse, a new home in a new or­ga­ni­za­tion— all with about a week to ad­just.

Called on when De­nard Span’s back locked up be­fore the game, den Dekker made his first start for Washington on Fri­day night. His lim­ited prepa­ra­tion seemed like plenty. He hit a two-run home run in the sixth in­ning to pro­vide in­sur­ance that loomed large in the 5-2 win. It was his first home run as a Na­tional and the sec­ond of his ma­jor league ca­reer.

“It felt great,” den Dekker said. “I was glad I could get into a game and help the team out and be a part of a win.”

Den Dekker went to Westminster Academy in Florida, where he was an up­per­class­man when Michael A. Tay­lor, then a short­stop, joined the team. The two played along­side each other in a patched-up Na­tion­als out­field Fri­day night and com­bined for three of the Na­tion­als’ runs.

In­jury woes con­tinue

The lineup is nor­mally posted four hours or so be­fore a game. One o’clock came and went Satur­day, two hours be­fore game time, and no lineup came with it.

In­juries caused the de­lay. Jayson Werth, Ryan Zim­mer­man and An­thony Ren­don are on the dis­abled list, three starters all un­avail­able. Bryce Harper, Span and Yunel Es­co­bar are all banged up, though tech­ni­cally ac­tive. Na­tion­als Man­ager Matt Wil­liams was wait­ing to see which of that trio might be able to play Satur­day. Ul­ti­mately, none of them were in the lineup posted around 1:30 p.m.

Of course that didn’t mat­ter much since the game was post­poned af­ter 11/ in­nings, but

2 Wil­liams did pro­vide an up­date on the in­jured:

Span suf­fered back spasms a few hours be­fore Fri­day night’s game. Wil­liams said the Na­tion­als are look­ing at how he deals with the time be­tween bat­ting prac­tice and the game.

“That cool­ing-down pe­riod in be­tween can be an is­sue at times,” Wil­liams said. “We’re look­ing at that. De­nard’s con­scious of that. We’re try­ing to mod­ify his pro­gram in that he doesn’t sit for so long once he’s hot.”

Wil­liams said Span’s two core surg­eries this off­sea­son “changes things” and that Span will con­tinue to work on his core flex­i­bil­ity.

Ren­don, who was placed on the dis­abled list Fri­day with a strained left quad, is trav­el­ing with the team to Philadelphia this week­end and then to At­lanta. He rode the bike Fri­day, and Wil­liams said he will be­gin hit­ting Mon­day.

There were no up­dates on Werth, other than he is back in D.C.. He was able to wear a glove last week with­out a splint on his left wrist, which he frac­tured ear­lier this month.

Harper, who came up limp­ing and grab­bing the back of his leg af­ter dou­bling Wed­nes­day night, un­der­went an MRI exam on his right ham­string. Wil­liams said Fri­day that the MRI looked “pretty good” and Harper is pro­gress­ing.

Zim­mer­man has been on the dis­abled list since June 11, tak­ing time off to al­le­vi­ate the pain caused by plan­tar fasci­itis. The first base­man is back in D.C., and Wil­liams said he has got­ten on a tread­mill and started hit­ting. He ex­pects him to “ramp up” his ac­tiv­ity level soon.

Es­co­bar left Fri­day night’s game af­ter be­ing hit in the left hand by a pitch. Wil­liams said the hand is “swollen” but re­it­er­ated that X-rays were neg­a­tive.

“It’s ex­cit­ing,” Tay­lor said. “He crushed that ball. I was very happy for him.”

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