Nationals activate 4 players affected by COVID from Injured List

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Matt Weyrich
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Nats activate 4 players affected by COVID from Injured List originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Nationals announced a series of roster moves Friday that restored a chunk of their roster originally compromised by a COVID outbreak in their clubhouse.

Washington activated closer Brad Hand, infielder Jordy Mercer and catchers Yan Gomes and Alex Avila from the Injured List. In corresponding moves, catcher Tres Barrera and reliever Ryne Harper were optioned to the taxi squad while infielder Carter Kieboom and Cody Wilson were sent to the alternate training site in Fredericksburg. The Nationals also added outfielder Gerardo Parra, infielder Adrián Sanchez and left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland to their taxi squad.

"We left spring training with a roster set and unfortunately things happened but to get these guys back I'm excited about that," manager Davey Martinez said in a Zoom call Friday. "They're excited about that. Their team members are excited about that. So, like I said, we'll get them back [and] we'll get them back in the lineup as soon as we can."

After playing their opening series against the Atlanta Braves down nine players, the Nationals will now have several key pieces back in the clubhouse ahead of their series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. According to Martinez, starter Patrick Corbin has also cleared COVID protocols and flew out to L.A. He is going to throw on flat ground Friday before the Nationals decide when to activate him. The team has yet to announce who will be starting Saturday while Max Scherzer is scheduled for Sunday.

In addition to Corbin, Washington is still without first baseman Josh Bell, outfielder Kyle Schwarber, starter Jon Lester and infielder Josh Harrison.

Perhaps the most surprising move made by the Nationals was one they didn’t make. Despite activating two catchers, the team only dropped one from the active roster. Veteran Jonathan Lucroy is still around, giving the Nationals three catchers. Manager Davey Martinez has spoken in the past about his desire to keep three catchers in order to use one as a pinch hitter but the team hasn’t done it often.

Yet none of the activated players are more significant to the Nationals than Hand, who they signed for $10.5 million this offseason to be their top left-handed option out of the bullpen. Hand led the majors with 16 saves in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. With him back, the Nationals' bullpen is now missing only right-hander Will Harris, who is out with an arm injury.