Having already seen four of their catchers miss time due to injuries this season, the Nationals are about to add a fifth name to the list.
Jhonatan Solano will likely be placed on the disabled list following tonight's game with a strained oblique muscle, manager Davey Johnson said today.
Solano has been dealing with the injury since he last played, Sunday in Miami. Jesus Flores is in the Nationals' lineup tonight for the third straight day, and with a 12:35 p.m. start scheduled tomorrow, the club is going to need a healthy backup catcher to give Flores a break.
That catcher is expected to be Sandy Leon, who joined the Nationals May 14 after Opening Day starter Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee but then suffered a high ankle sprain four innings into his major-league debut. Leon has since recovered and is currently hitting .313 at Class AA Harrisburg.
Solano's injury is a tough blow for the 26-year-old rookie, who has acquitted himself well since making his big-league debut May 29 (after veteran Carlos Maldonado went on the DL with a back strain) and has .314 with two homers and six RBI in 12 games.
It's also a tough blow for a Nationals club that has had to rely on Flores to carry the load behind the plate with Ramos (who finally had surgery to repair the ACL tear today) out for the season.
Flores is hitting .229 with a .267 on-base percentage overall and has been mired in a month-long slump, with only three hits in his last 29 at-bats. He spoke with Johnson earlier today, and the manager came away convinced the slump isn't a byproduct of overuse but of Flores putting too much pressure on himself to perform.
"He expects a lot out of himself," Johnson said. "He's gone through a little slump here, and he's putting more pressure on himself than he needs. He calls a great game. He's outstanding behind the dish catching the best staff in baseball and helping them along. I said: 'Your importance [defensively] is more important than what you do offensively. Just quit grinding and punishing yourself as much as you do and try to relax and enjoy it a little bit more.
"He's certainly got the ability to hit and not worry about it. I'm not as worried as he is. Hopefully he'll lighten up and relax and quit pressing."