WASHINGTON -- The Nationals' catching depth that manager Davey Johnson raves so much about may be put to the test in the near future.
Johnson said backup catcher Jhonatan Solano has been nursing a sore oblique and could soon land on the disabled list. That will likely mean more responsibility for starter Jesus Flores, who fell into the No. 1 spot when Wilson Ramos was sidelined for the year with a right knee injury.
If the team places Solano on the DL, it will likely call up Sandy Leon, currently with Triple-A Syracuse, to lend a hand. Leon played one game, on May 14, before leaving with a high right ankle sprain suffered during a collision at home-plate -- less than 48 hours after Ramos tore his ACL in similar fashion.
Ramos had successful surgery on Wednesday morning and is not expected to factor into the team's catching plans this season.
The club has already used five catchers this season (Ramos, Flores, Solano, Leon and Carlos Maldonado).
"I've said before, I like the depth of catchers in this organization, second to none [as far as] other organizations," Johnson said.
Flores' slash line has fallen to .229/.267/.340 due to recent struggles, and Johnson is sure the backstop is expecting too much of himself.
"He's going through a little slump here and he's putting more pressure on himself," Johnson said. "He calls a great game, he's outstanding behind the dish, catching the best [pitching] staff in baseball and helping them along. I said, 'You're important to this ballclub, more important than what you do offensively. Grinding and punishing yourself as much as you do, just relax and try to enjoy it a little bit more.'"
Johnson impressed by Werth in BP session
WASHINGTON -- Jayson Werth's first swings in nearly 2 1/2 months went so well on Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park that manager Davey Johnson said the outfielder could embark on a rehab assignment with a Nationals Minor League affiliate as soon as Thursday.
Johnson said he was "really pleasantly surprised" with Werth, who broke his left wrist diving for a ball on May 6 in Philadelphia. The outfielder was seen taking early batting practice, joined by slugger Chad Tracy, and the pair were watched by Johnson, general manager Mike Rizzo and hitting coach Rick Eckstein.
"I didn't think he'd be hitting for another week, and it seemed like he didn't feel any discomfort," Johnson said.
The Nationals have been targeting a return date of the first week in August and, though Werth seems to be ahead of schedule, that timetable will likely remain in place. Because it's been so long since the outfielder played in a game, Johnson said he wants to take a more extended approach in Werth's rehabilitation to fully regain his timing before he joins the first-place Nats.
"He's feeling like he's been down so long, I think over two months, that the rest of his body is going to need the time as much as his timing and stuff," Johnson said. "He's really been out. It's like he's had the winter off. He's been able to do a few things, but not a lot of catching the ball, not a whole lot of running around trying to catch it."
Werth was hitting .276 with three homers and 12 RBIs at the time of the injury.
Storen on cusp of returning to Nats' bullpen
WASHINGTON -- Nationals reliever Drew Storen, who has not thrown a pitch in the Major Leagues this season after undergoing April surgery to remove a bone chip from his right elbow, will be activated from the disabled list "soon," possibly as early as Thursday.
Storen made another rehab appearance with Class A Potomac on Tuesday night, logging one perfect inning while striking out two.
Storen was expected to throw long toss before Wednesday's game against the Mets, and manager Davey Johnson said "he'll probably be activated soon, maybe as early as tomorrow."
Storen made a total of six Minor League appearances, and was much more pleased with his performance this week after an ugly outing on Sunday with Double-A Harrisburg. The right-hander said he made some mechanical adjustments, and felt much more in control of his pitches.
"I just didn't try to throw hard," Storen said. "I just let it be more natural and try to pitch a little bit. I was happy with my command, and really happy with my movement and everything on it."
It's unclear what type of role Storen will hold when he returns to a bullpen that has been fantastic this year, even in his absence. He logged 43 saves last season, but Tyler Clippard has excelled in his place since late May.
Storen also has not thrown on back-to-back days, but doesn't expect that to be an issue when he rejoins the big league club.
"In Spring Training the last couple years, I haven't [thrown on back-to-back days]," Storen said. "It's just one of those things -- adrenaline takes over. I feel physically strong enough to do it."