As expected, the Nationals have placed catcher Matt Wieters on the 10-day DL with a hamstring strain. He’ll be replaced on the active roster by backstop Spencer Kieboom, as the Talk Nats blog first reported on Twitter.
While Kieboom was previously on the Nats’ 40-man, he was bumped off the roster last spring. The Nats have selected his contract again to facilitate his move back to the active roster.
Clearing a 40-man spot wasn’t a challenge with so many injured players susceptible of moving to the 60-day DL. The Nationals made that move with outfielder Adam Eaton, who recently underwent ankle surgery and is expected to be out of commission for quite some time. Since he has been out since early April anyway, his timeline will not be impacted. (D.C. fans looking for a silver lining will note that this decision leaves Daniel Murphy eligible to return before the end of May, though it’s still not clear he’ll be ready by that point.)
At this point, it’s still unclear just what sort of absence the Nats ought to expect from Wieters. The injury has been announced as being to his hamstring, but there was some concern his knee may have incurred damage. It is not known at this point whether the joint is still an area of concern.
The 27-year-old Kieboom, who’s the older brother of Nats prospect Carter Kieboom, drew a walk in his lone prior MLB plate appearance. He has not hit all that much in the upper minors — his .250/.337/.333 slash thus far in 2018 is representative — but does possess solid plate discipline and contact skills (lifetime 8.4% walk rate and 19.2% strikeout rate). Kieboom has long been regarded as a quality defender, too, so he’s a suitable option at least for fill-in duty.
Whether or not Wieters is shelved for a significant time, the Nationals’ questions behind the dish are only getting more pressing. The club is now facing some firm challenges from within the NL East while dealing with the absences of Murphy and Eaton. Though both Wieters and now-starter Pedro Severino have produced at approximately league average offensively to this point of the season, there’s reason in both cases to suspect the output will lag over the course of the season. While the team will surely also be looking for pitching depth at the deadline, the situation behind the plate stands out as being the other area of the roster ripest for upgrade. That’s all the more true since Wieters is set to depart after the current season, meaning the Nats still need to find a near and long-term solution.