Some Thursday morning leftovers and look-aheads as you get back to the grind following what hopefully was an enjoyable and safe Independence Day...
-- Jhonatan Solano was summoned to make his big-league debut five weeks ago, only after a string of injuries befell four players ahead of him on the Nationals' catching depth chart. These days, there's little reason to believe he'll be heading back to the minors anytime soon.
Solano has proven to be an unexpected surprise for the Nationals, a 26-year-old rookie who not only calls a good game behind the plate but has some legitimate skills at the plate.
With a homer and a single during yesterday's 9-4 win over the Giants, Solano raised his batting average to .393 (11-for-28). He's got two homers, three doubles, six RBI and an 1.128 OPS. Not bad for the Nationals' fifth-string catcher.
"I've said before, I've never seen such depth in catching as in this organization," manager Davey Johnson said. "From Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores, Solano, Sandy Leon, Carlos Maldonado ... I mean, all of them are great receivers, catch and throw, block balls great. And all of them have good bat potential. I've never been in an organization, and it's my fifth one, anywhere close to that."
The hilariously nicknamed "Onion" -- he traveled from his native Colombia to Venezuela for a tryout with the Nationals on a bus with a bushel of onions on the seat next to him -- still isn't quite sure what to make of his good fortune. A career .251 hitter in the minors, he's taking pride in the fact he hasn't been overwhelmed by big-league pitching and that he's contributing to a first-place club.
"I feel great right now because everyone's playing good," he said. "It's a little pressure, but I try to do everything good because I don't want to look like: 'Oh, he's the only guy that can do nothing.'"
The more Solano shows he can hold his own at this level, the more starts he's likely to get behind the plate. Johnson has wanted to gives Flores most rest and not burn out his starting catcher before season's end. With Solano establishing himself more and more, that shouldn't be a problem.
-- Chad Tracy began his rehab assignment for Class A Potomac last night and put together a couple of productive at-bats. The veteran corner infielder went 0-for-3 but delivered a sacrifice fly in his first at-bat and later drew a 10-pitch walk.
Tracy, who led the club with a .333 batting average and nine RBI as a pinch-hitter, has been out since late-May with a torn groin muscle. What initially was feared as a potential season-ending injury hasn't proven nearly as serious. Tracy figures spend the rest of the week on rehab but could be activated off the disabled list in time for the Nationals' second-half opener July 13 in Miami.
-- Don't adjust your eyeglasses or TV screens tonight when you check out the series final between the Nationals and Giants. Things might look a tad different, because both clubs will be wearing 1924 throwback uniforms, commemorating the only World Series championship in Washington baseball history.
The team uniforms won't be the only throwback elements to the game. The grounds crew, according to a Nationals press release, will be dressed in "full 1920s attire." The scoreboard will have a 1924 look to it, and traditional organ music will be played between innings. Also, the ceremonial first pitch will be performed with an actual ball from Game 6 of the '24 World Series and will be thrown from behind the first-base dugout as it used to be done.
-- Finally, here's your staggering fact of the day: When play begins around baseball today, the NL's two best records will belong to the Washington Nationals (47-32) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (45-36). Who had THAT predicted on Opening Day?