MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Nats hoping full complement of stars return soon

Werth, Escobar aiming to play in Minor League games this week

Nats hoping full complement of stars return soon

JUPITER, Fla. -- The regular season is less than weeks away and Nationals manager Matt Williams said he is concerned about the health of his players.

Entering Thursday's game against the Tigers, the Nationals have four significant players -- Yunel Escobar, Nate McLouth, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth -- who are on the mend. All four players are pushing to be ready for Opening Day on April 6 against the Mets at Nationals Park.

That's not including Denard Span, who will not be ready for Opening Day because of surgery to repair a rectus abdominis (abdominal) muscle. He is not expected back until sometime in May.

"We are in our progression with our guys that are dinged-up," Williams said. "We want to get Anthony at-bats. We want to give Jayson at-bats. But we have to do that at the appropriate time. You can't force them to go out there if they are not ready to get out there. I want to get those guys at-bats."

Escobar, who hasn't played a Spring Training game because of a Grade 1 oblique strain, had a great session at Space Coast Stadium in Jupiter on Wednesday morning. He took 35 ground balls at second base with more intensity and then swung the bat off a tee and at soft-toss pitches. Escobar said he hopes to play in a Minor League game by next week.

Rendon (sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee) worked on the treadmill on Tuesday and Williams said the knee is better. But there is nothing to indicate that Rendon could get back on the field soon.

"He is not running around too hard, but he's better," Williams said. "He was a little tight early, but as he got into the treadmill work, it loosened up which is a good sign. But it means it's cranky on him."

McLouth (shoulder) is hoping to be in a game soon. He has been taking batting practice and playing catch.

Werth, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, is hoping to play in a Minor League game this week, playing defense exclusively, and that would be on a limited basis, according to Williams.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.