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Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki still not throwing due to elbow inflammation

Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki still not throwing due to elbow inflammation

MINNEAPOLIS — Catcher Kurt Suzuki has not thrown since exiting last Saturday’s game with right elbow inflammation, and the Washington Nationals don’t expect him to in the near future. That could force the Nationals to test their catching depth for the first time this season.

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They’re going to hold [Suzuki] off from throwing, I know right now for a few days,” Manager Dave Martinez said Thursday afternoon. “They want to get all the inflammation out of there before they do anything.”

To this point of the season, through 144 contests, Suzuki or Yan Gomes has made every start at catcher for the Nationals, but that could change this weekend. Martinez is considering using Raudy Read during a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves. Washington also called up Tres Barrera last Sunday to provide additional insurance at the position.

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Read could make sense Saturday because he has familiarity with that day’s starting pitcher, Austin Voth. The pair worked together earlier this season with the Class AAA Fresno Grizzlies. It would also be a logical time to get Gomes some rest, since the 32-year-old has started six straight games — and counting — since Suzuki first felt elbow pain after subbing in against the Braves in Atlanta. The 35-year-old Suzuki has since felt discomfort while swinging, and has yet to resume batting practice

[ How the Nationals’ rotation lines up for the rest of the regular season — and beyond ]

Suzuki’s absence is felt the most in the Nationals’ lineup. He has been solid hitting sixth and seventh, and particularly productive with two outs and runners in scoring position (1.214 on-base-plus slugging percentage in 39 plate appearances in that situation). He has, however, struggled managing the base paths and hurt his elbow while throwing down to second base. Suzuki has allowed 45 of the 50 runners to steal this season, just a 10 percent success rate.

The Nationals are scheduled to play the Twins at Target Field at 7:40 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday. But with storms in the forecast for most of the night, and the sky leaking rain all day, it’s going to be tough to get the game in. Since the teams don’t have a mutual off day for the rest of the season, it could be rescheduled for Sept. 30 in case the matchup holds postseason implications. Yet Major League Baseball, who makes all weather decisions this time of year, is expected to avoid that scenario at all costs

“We’re just watching right now, and we have to get ready to play,” Martinez said. “They’re saying it’s going to break up, so we never tell the boys we’re not going to play. We want them to be ready. It’s full steam ahead and Pat Corbin is in there today.”

Gomes has caught each of Corbin’s starts this season. It makes sense, given their connection, for him to be back behind the plate Thursday. But he will need a break if Suzuki remains out, and that’s when Read or Barrera will come in. Martinez favors Read because the 25-year-old has some big league experience and a lot of pop in his bat. Barrera, 24, has yet to appear in the majors, but is touted as a very solid defensive catcher

Whoever winds up behind the plate, and whenever that comes, they will be thrown right into a pennant race. Washington has a slight lead over the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers in the National League wild card standings. And, more than anything, they need Suzuki back and healthy for the stretch run

“Yan is in great shape,” Martinez said when asked how many consecutive days Gomes could play. “I definitely want to get one of the other two guys in there, possibly one game this weekend, so we’ll see.”

LINEUPS

Nationals (80-64)

Trea Turner SS

Adam Eaton RF

Anthony Rendon 3B

Juan Soto LF

Howie Kendrick DH

Asdrúbal Cabrera 2B

Matt Adams 1B

Victor Robles CF

Yan Gomes C

Patrick Corbin P

Twins (89-56)

Mitch Garver C

Luis Arraez LF

Nelson Cruz DH

Eddie Rosario RF

C.J. Cron 1B

Willians Astudillo 3B

Jonathan Schoop 2B

Ehire Adrianza SS

Ryan LaMarre CF

Kyle Gibson P

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