Struggling Nationals get back Schwarber, Bell, Harrison

Sports

Washington Nationals’ Josh Bell (19) is met by Victor Robles (16) after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros, Wednesday, March 24, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Fl. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kyle Schwarber, Josh Bell and Josh Harrison were reinstated from the injured list Monday by the Washington Nationals, making the team’s roster nearly whole again after a coronavirus outbreak sidelined nine players and caused postponement of four games.

That trio had been expected to be in Washington’s opening day lineup — with Schwarber in left field, Bell at first base, Harrison at second — but they were part of the group kept away from the rest of the club because of COVID-19 protocols. Major League Baseball wound up rescheduling the Nationals’ first four games of 2021.

Four players tested positive for the illness, while five others were put under quarantine after contact tracing determined they might have been exposed. The Nationals never announced which players fell into which category.

Now eight of the nine are back with the manager Dave Martinez’s club, which took a 1-5 record and five-game losing streak into Monday night’s opener of a three-game series at the St. Louis Cardinals.

The only player still missing is left-handed starting pitcher Jon Lester, who is expected to spend some time ramping up at the team’s alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Virginia, before making his Nationals debut.

While the Nationals were in Los Angeles over the weekend, getting swept in three games by the reigning World Series champion Dodgers, catchers Yan Gomes and Alex Avila, starting Patrick Corbin, closer Brad Hand and infielder Jordy Mercer cleared COVID-19 protocols and rejoined the team.

The 2019 champs are hoping that Bell, Schwarber and Harrison can offer a bit of pop to the lineup, which has been scuffling and was shut out in three of the team’s past four games.

Only two players have hit home runs for the Nationals so far this season: Juan Soto and Trea Turner, each with a pair deep shots.

In corresponding roster moves made by the Nationals before Monday’s game:

— infielder Luis García and outfielder Yadiel Hernandez were optioned to the alternate training site and added to the team’s taxi squad for the current trip;

— relievers Ryne Harper, a right-hander, and T.J. McFarland, a lefty, were returned to Fredericksburg;

— catcher Jonathan Lucroy was designated for assignment.

Signed as a stop-gap measure with Gomes and Avila both unavailable, Lucroy showed up for his first day with the Nationals on April 6 — when they finally played their first game of the season.

Lucroy caught Max Scherzer against the Atlanta Braves that day and delivered a two-run double in Washington’s 6-5 victory.

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