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LaRoche out with oblique strain

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LaRoche out with oblique strain

Given the injuries they've already sustained and the lack of production they've been getting from the rest of their lineup, the Nationals can ill-afford to lose Adam LaRoche for any length of time.

But it appears they'll be without their cleanup hitter and starting first baseman for at least several days after he suffered an injury to his right oblique muscle while diving for a ball during Wednesday night's game.

LaRoche finished out that game but reported to Nationals Park today feeling tightness on his right side. He attempted to take a couple of swings off a tee, but quickly shut himself down, not wanting the injury to become any more severe.

"I know these things can linger," he said. "I hope we caught it early enough where we can knock it out shortly and get back out there, because obviously the timing couldn't be any worse."

The Nationals are currently playing without either third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right shoulder inflammation) or left fielder Michael Morse (right lat muscle strain). Zimmerman is eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday but may not be ready until Tuesday. Morse will be shut down for at least three more weeks before resuming baseball activities.

The Nationals aren't putting any official timetable on LaRoche's return, but Davey Johnson said he "might be down 2-3 days." The manager added this oblique injury is "not in the DeRosa category," referring to veteran Mark DeRosa, who just went on the DL with an oblique strain.

LaRoche, who leads the club with four homers and 17 RBI, said he first felt something in his right side after diving for a groundball to his right early during Wednesday's game but initially didn't think much of it.

"I thought at the time I just landed on my ribs, or landed on something," he said. "When I came back to swing the bat, I knew it was something else."

The injury occurred before LaRoche attempted to steal second base in the bottom of the sixth, though he said that play didn't cause any further damage. The 32-year-old has only five stolen bases (in 16 attempts) in his career.

"Just doing what I'm told," he said of the surprise call. "I was ordered to go, which is a compliment. But I think I was thrown out by about 20 feet. They probably won't do that again."

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Nats' Joe Ross pitches just one inning in 1st minor league rehab game

Nats' Joe Ross pitches just one inning in 1st minor league rehab game

Nationals pitcher Joe Ross made his first minor league rehab assignment appearance on Sunday afternoon with Triple-A Syracuse and it was a brief one.

Ross tossed just 21 pitches in one inning of work against the Pawtucket Red Sox. He allowed one run on three hits and also recorded a strikeout. The three hits Ross allowed were all singles and the run was scored on a fielder's choice groundout.

Ross, 23, threw more pitches in a bullpen session this week. He threw two bullpens total, one on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, before going to Syracuse. Ross said he threw 25 to 30 pitches in the first session.

Ross is likely to return to the Nationals in their bullpen, with the minor league season nearing its end. He has said his goal is to be starting for the Nationals in mid-September.

Him pitching just one inning could be a part of that plan, and the Nats do have incentive to take it slow with Ross, who is returning from right shoulder inflammation. He previously pitched two minor league games - on July 24 and July 30 - before a setback made the Nats shut him down altogether.

Ross has a 3.49 ERA in 16 MLB starts this season. He last pitched on July 3 against the Reds.

[RELATED: Harper explains ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike']

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Nats send down Wilmer Difo to call up Lucas Giolito to face Rockies

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Nats send down Wilmer Difo to call up Lucas Giolito to face Rockies

In need of a starter to fill the void left by injuries in their rotation, the Nationals called up top prospect Lucas Giolito on Sunday morning to face the Colorado Rockies.

Infielder Wilmer Difo was optioned to Double-A Harrisburg as the corresponding move, though he will likely be back soon with the minor league season ending in just over a week and MLB rosters expanding on Sept. 1.

Difo, 24, hit .257 with two doubles, five RBI and six runs in 18 games for the Nats before getting sent back down. He joined the team on July 27 when Stephen Drew landed on the disabled list with vertigo-like symptoms.

Difo stuck around as Drew made little progress in his recovery. Now over a month later, Drew still does not have a clear timeline to return. If he doesn't show improvement over the next few weeks, Difo could again become a valuable piece for the Nationals as a backup infielder who can play multiple positions. Difo also bats switch, which is always a plus.

[RELATED: Harper explains ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike']

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES

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Top prospect Lucas Giolito faces Rockies as Nats close homestand

Top prospect Lucas Giolito faces Rockies as Nats close homestand

Nats (75-54) at Rockies (61-68) at Nationals Park

Lucas Giolito, the top prospect in the Nationals' organization, is back in Washington, this time to face the Colorado Rockies in his fourth career MLB start. Giolito will pitch in the big leagues for the first time since July 24, over a month ago. He will get his toughest test yet in the Rockies, who boast the highest-scoring lineup in the National League.

Pitching for Colorado will be right-hander Chad Bettis (10-7, 5.29). He saw the Nats two starts ago and gave up two runs through three innings at Coors Field. His start was cut short due to a rain delay.

Jayson Werth gets the day off with Ben Revere in left field. Revere is batting second with the rest of the lineup just like it was on Saturday.

First pitch: 1:35 p.m.
TV: MASN2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Lucas Giolito vs. Rockies - Chad Bettis

NATS

CF Trea Turner
LF Ben Revere
2B Daniel Murphy
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Lucas Giolito

ROCKIES

CF Charlie Blackmon
2B D.J. LeMahieu
RF Carlos Gonzalez
3B Nolan Arenado
LF David Dahl
1B Gerardo Parra
SS Daniel Descalso
C Tony Wolters
RHP Chad Bettis

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