Goodwin could return to Nats' bench for NLDS

Outfielder has been out since Aug. 14 with groin injury

Goodwin could return to Nats' bench for NLDS

PHILADELPHIA -- The Nationals' bench could be getting a boost for the postseason. Outfielder Brian Goodwin "appears to be on target" to be available for the start of the National League Division Series, manager Dusty Baker said Wednesday.

Goodwin is rehabbing from a groin injury that has kept him out of action since Aug. 14. He is running, taking batting practice and participating in simulated games, while trying to get ready to return. He suffered a setback earlier this month during his rehab that put his season in jeopardy, but has continued to work his way back.

The NLDS presented by T-Mobile begins on Oct. 6 at Nationals Park, as Washington will host the Cubs.

Instead of joining the team in Philadelphia, Goodwin is playing in the instructional league in Florida, where Baker said the team plans to keep him through the weekend.

"I think it's better that he stays down there and plays," Baker said. "You can have his at-bats controlled. We discussed that. Also, he could hit the top and bottom of every inning if we wanted to, like Spring Training."

Goodwin's terrific catch

It also allows Goodwin to avoid a crowded outfield situation in Washington. The Nats are easing Bryce Harper back into action in right field, and also trying to get Jayson Werth's timing back at the plate, after he has been sidelined with injuries. Baker said it would be difficult to also incorporate Goodwin into the mix.

If all goes well in Goodwin's rehab, he could serve as the Nationals' fourth outfielder in the postseason. In 74 games in his rookie season, Goodwin has established himself as a solid Major Leaguer while filling in when Michael A. Taylor and Werth were on the DL. Goodwin hit .251/.313/.498 with 13 home runs and six stolen bases.

"Goodie's been great," Baker said. "He's been outstanding for us. Between he and [Wilmer] Difo, they're vying for sixth man of the year in basketball, and they're on the same team. They've been a big part of our success."

Worth noting

• Infielder Stephen Drew (abdominal) remains further away from returning than Goodwin. Baker said Drew could potentially be an option to join the team in the NLCS presented by Camping World or World Series presented by YouTube TV. Drew has been out since July 26. He continues to take batting practice and run the bases.

• Right-hander Matt Albers left the team Wednesday to head to Houston to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. Because of expanded rosters in September, the Nationals did not have to place him on the paternity list.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.