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Which players do Nats need to protect?

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Which players do Nats need to protect?

One of baseball's many obscure deadlines strikes tonight at midnight, when players eligible for the Rule 5 draft must be added to their club's 40-man rosters or else risk being snatched away by other organizations.

Rarely do these decisions result in total disaster for teams -- how many people even remember the Nationals lost Brad Meyers and Erik Komatsu in last year's Rule 5 draft, and how many of those remember both players were ultimately returned to the organization? -- but there's always a chance a team could make a major miscalculation and lose a top prospect.

So general manager Mike Rizzo and his player development folks have some important decisions to make before the end of the night.

For the uninitiated (or the confused) here's a quick refresher course on how this all works...

-- Any players in the Nationals' organization who signed at age 18 and have played in parts of at least five seasons, plus any who signed at age 19 and have played in parts of at least four seasons, must be added to the 40-man roster by tonight.

-- Any players who meet those qualifications and aren't added to the roster are free to be selected by another club in the Rule 5 draft (which is held on Dec. 6).

-- Those players must then remain on their new club's 25-man roster (or disabled list) an entire season or else be offered back.

As things stand at this moment, the Nationals have 36 players on their 40-man roster:

PITCHERS (16) -- Tyler Clippard, Ross Detwiler, Christian Garcia, Gio Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, Cole Kimball, John Lannan, Ryan Mattheus, Yunesky Maya, Ryan Perry, Matt Purke, Henry Rodriguez, Craig Stammen, Drew Storen, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann

CATCHERS (5) -- Jesus Flores, Sandy Leon, Wilson Ramos, Jhonatan Solano, Kurt Suzuki

INFIELDERS (8) -- Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Steve Lombardozzi, Chris Marrero, Anthony Rendon, Carlos Rivero, Chad Tracy, Ryan Zimmerman

OUTFIELDERS (7) -- Roger Bernadina, Corey Brown, Bryce Harper, Tyler Moore, Michael Morse, Eury Perez, Jayson Werth

So, in theory, the Nationals have room to add four Rule 5-eligible players to the 40-man roster today. But they probably want to keep at least one or two open slots for free agents or trade acquisitions, lest they be forced to release someone else to clear space.

What minor leaguers are Rule 5 eligible? Basically, it's anyone drafted out of high school in 2008 or earlier and anyone drafted out of college in 2009 or earlier. Here's a partial list of the more prominent names...

RULE 5 ELIGIBLE PLAYERS
1B Justin Bloxom
RHP Paul Demny
OF Destin Hood
RHP Nathan Karns
2B Jeff Kobernus
OF Erik Komatsu
RHP Jeff Mandel
RHP Brad Meyers
LHP Danny Rosenbaum
RHP Rob Wort

Here are the pertinent questions: 1 )Which of those players would have a chance sticking in the big leagues for a full season with another organization? 2) From that group, which players are worth protecting?

Only a handful of the names appear like strong Rule 5 candidates: Rosenbaum, Karns and Kobernus. Rosenbaum, 25, has put together a nice minor-league career, pitched well last season at Class AA Harrisburg and could possibly hold down the fifth rotation spot or a long relief role on a big-league club in 2013. Karns, 24, hasn't pitched above Class A but was dominant last season and earned organizational pitcher of the year honors. And Kobernus, 24, has got blazing speed and a little bit of pop for a second baseman (though he battled injuries this season at Harrisburg).

The rest are either too raw to stick in the big leagues (Hood) or unlikely to make a major impact (Meyers, Mandel) so the Nationals can probably afford to leave them unprotected.

The educated guess here: The Nationals will add Rosenbaum and Karns to their 40-man roster before the end of the night but take their chances and leave Kobernus unprotected.

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Nats get Solis back, still waiting for Harper's MRI results

Nats get Solis back, still waiting for Harper's MRI results

The Nationals offered no new information on Bryce Harper's sore left thumb or Daniel Murphy's sore left buttock on Monday. The results of Harper's X-ray are not back and Murphy's still shut down and out of the lineup for the seventh straight game.

They did, however, get lefty reliever Sammy Solis back from the disabled list. That was a nice boost for a team that is missing two of its best position players and one of its best pitchers in Stephen Strasburg.

Solis was their most effective lefty reliever when he landed on the DL on Aug. 16 with left shoulder inflammation. He threw two simulated games in Viera, Fla., including one on Sunday when he tossed 25 pitches.

Simulated games, though, only replicate so much. His goal now is simple: get as much work as he can in the last seven games to get up to speed before the playoffs.

"[A simulated game] is not quite a game. I think we all know that. I'm still feeling good and ready to go," Solis said. "Hopefully I'll get some game experience and get back on track for the postseason."

Since Solis threw on Sunday, he's unlikely to pitch in the team's opener against the Diamondbacks on Monday. That leaves six games and then the four days off before the NLDS begins on Friday, Oct. 7 to get work in.

That's not a long time, but the Nats will take what they can get from the left-hander, who has enjoyed a breakout season with a 2.35 ERA in 34 appearances.

"Hopefully we have a situation where we can get him into the game tomorrow," manager Dusty Baker said. "It doesn’t leave a bunch of time for us to get him sharp. But they told me that he’s feeling good and he threw the ball well.”

For Harper, the Nationals continue to wait. Usually X-rays do not take as long as MRIs to get the results back. So, it would be surprising if there was no update on Tuesday.

Like Solis, Murphy getting his rhythm back will also be important. He has just two at-bats since he hurt himself sliding on Sept. 17.

“How many at-bats he needs, that’s a toss-up between at-bats and him getting extra days to get healthy and get well," Baker said. "Which ones are more important: His legs to get healthy, or his at-bats, and are we risking that leg by pushing him too early? Murph knows himself. Murph has a strong mind. I’m just glad that we shut Murph down when we did, and we had the luxury of shutting him down when we did. Because if he had played any longer, he’d have been out for probably the entire postseason.”

Baker went on to say that he does expect Murphy to be able to play in the postseason. As for Stephen Strasburg, he said he still doesn't know.

NOTES:

-- The Nationals made a minor trade with the Pirates on Monday. They sent infielder Chris Bostick to Pittsburgh for catcher Taylor Gushue and cash considerations. Gushue was a fourth round pick in 2014 out of the University of Florida. He has a .231 average and .659 OPS in 243 minor league games.

[RELATED: Thoughts on the death of Marlins star Jose Fernandez]

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Nats begin final homestand with Roark set to face Diamondbacks

Nats begin final homestand with Roark set to face Diamondbacks

Nats (91-64) vs. Diamondbacks (64-91) at Nationals Park

The Nationals already have the NL East division locked up and know they will be playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series next week. But first, they have seven more regular season games, all at home. They begin that final homestand on Monday night with the Arizona Diamondbacks in town.

That means Matt Williams will make his return to Nationals Park for the first time since he was fired last October. He is now the third base coach of the D'Backs, who can technically help their division rivals, the Dodgers, by beating the Nats. L.A. and Washington are jockeying for home field advantage in that first round.

Bryce Harper (thumb) and Daniel Murphy remain out of the Nats' lineup. The Nats are still not ready to reveal the results of Harper's X-ray.

Tanner Roark (15-9, 2.70) will make his 32nd start of the season. He saw the D'Backs on Aug. 2 in Arizona and tossed 6 1/3 innings of three-run ball.

Opposite Roark will be former first round pick Archie Bradley (7-9, 5.02). Bradley pitched on Aug. 1 the first series between these teams and allowed eight runs - seven earned - in 3 1/3 innings.

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Tanner Roark vs. Diamondbacks - Archie Bradley

NATS

CF Trea Turner
LF Jayson Werth
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
2B Stephen Drew
1B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Brian Goodwin
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Tanner Roark

DIAMONDBACKS

TBA
RHP Archie Bradley

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