WASHINGTON — First it was their top reliever. Now concern for injury centers around one of the Nationals’ top hitters.
The first baseman was thrown out at home plate on a play in the bottom of the second. Bell, who had doubled to begin the frame and has hit safely in 12 of the Nats’ first 14 games, will undergo an MRI on Thursday, according to manager Dave Martinez.
“Left knee was bothering him,” Martinez said. “He is going to get an MRI tomorrow. That’s all we know. A little swelling in there, but we will know tomorrow with the MRI.”
Bell looked good postgame and he was not favoring his left knee as he spoke to reporters.
“I feel awesome, but I feel like Davey did an awesome job of making sure safety first,” Bell said. “It’s definitely a long season. If I can come back ready to go tomorrow, well, I’ll be ready.”
Martinez said Bell did not know when the injury occurred, but he felt soreness when he headed out on defense to begin the third.
“My knee tightened up there and we will find out more tomorrow,” Bell said. “Right now, I don’t feel too terrible, so hopefully it’s not anything very serious.”
Bell attempted to score in the second on a Yadiel Hernandez chopper to Arizona third baseman Yonny Hernandez. But Bell did not think he was hurt on the play.
“The infielders were halfway there and it was a chopper, you got to go,” Bell said. “Anything hard you see it through. I saw the check swing there and I knew he was coming right behind me because he was holding me on virtually at third base. I knew it was going to be some sort of play at home, but I kind of heard his footsteps and all that, too.”
Bell led the Nationals with 52 extra-base hits in 2021, so his importance is obvious as the club’s cleanup hitter. The switch-hitter is batting .354 with two doubles, two homers, 11 RBIs and eight walks to go with a team-leading OPS of .977 this season.
What could Martinez do if Bell cannot play in Thursday’s series finale?
Maikel Franco would likely be the first baseman in Bell’s absence. Martinez said he would not consider veteran designated hitter Nelson Cruz as an option at first. Riley Adams has taken ground balls at the spot.
Doolittle is hopeful the sprain will not turn out to be a serious issue. But elbow injuries for pitchers can cause anxiety and sleepless nights, with also the potential for surgery.
“That’s what I was wrestling with last night, to be honest,” Doolittle admitted. “Because like, what’s a sprain, really? What does it really mean? It means there’s some tearing, there’s some inflammation, there’s some damage. It’s not ideal. But they’re not recommending that as the first course of action.
“That’s the last [resort] based on the location of the sprain and the severity of the sprain. So we’re going to see what we can do to push it and try to keep all our options open. We’re going all-in on this rehab, see where we come out in a week, 10 days, two weeks, once we start throwing again.”
With Doolittle down and now the concern for Bell, Martinez feels the temperature rising with these early-season injuries.
“Coming in real hot,” Martinez said. “Hopefully he’s OK.”