WASHINGTON -- The Nationals' disabled list remains crowded, but the team got one piece back on Monday, when it activated outfielder Scott Hairston from the 15-day disabled list. Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse to make room on the active roster.
Hairston had been on the DL since April 6 with a left oblique strain. His return could be the first of three this week for Washington, which also expects to get pitcher Doug Fister and catcher Wilson Ramos back in the fold. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and outfielder Bryce Harper remain a ways away.
"I think we've been staying afloat, especially with all the injuries we have currently," Hairston said. "That's the sign of a good team. The depth of the organization, guys who are coming up and making contributions, it's been really helpful. I think once we piece things together, once we get everybody healthy, we'll be the team that we're expected to be."
Hairston played in only two games before the injury and went 1-for-2. He spent a three-game rehab assignment at Syracuse, going 1-for-10 with a double, two walks and four strikeouts.
"I played nine innings a couple of games and felt good," he said. "Just working out the timing as a hitter, that's always the biggest challenge."
With Harper out, Hairston could see some starts in left field against left-handed pitchers. That could be as early as Tuesday, when Washington faces Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.
Nats manager Matt Williams has been using Tyler Moore and Kevin Frandsen as right-handed bats in left field, but Frandsen has played mostly infield in his career, and Moore could be needed at first base, with Adam LaRoche nursing a sore quad.
"It's a veteran right-hander off the bench," Williams said of Hairston. "It's power. He certainly matches up well against left-handed pitching."
In more than 1,000 career plate appearances against lefties, Hairston has posted a slash line of .269/.317/.498, with 49 home runs.
This was Souza's second short stint with the Nationals this season. The 25-year-old rookie got his first and only big league start last Wednesday in Houston but otherwise has come off the bench, going 1-for-8 with a walk.
Barrett reconnects with family friend Mattingly
WASHINGTON -- When Aaron Barrett was growing up in Evansville, Ind., he spent a lot of time hanging out at his friend's house. It just so happened that the friend, Preston Mattingly, was the son of Don Mattingly, then a Yankees star and now the Dodgers' manager.
"He was just like everybody else," said Barrett, a rookie reliever with the Nationals. "That's what was so cool about Don, he was one of the most humble big leaguers I've ever met. He was so down to earth."
Barrett got to see Mattingly in a much different setting on Monday, when the Dodgers started a three-game series at Nationals Park. The two took a picture together on the field several hours before the game, with Barrett tweeting, "Great to catch up with Donnie! It's been a long time … Pretty surreal!"
"Growing up around him, obviously he was like a childhood idol. It was a big deal," Barrett said. "Obviously the biggest name to ever come out of my hometown, so it's pretty neat to now just be on the same stage and get to see him."
While Barrett estimated that he hadn't seen Mattingly in about three years, he spent a lot of time with him growing up, especially during the offseason and before Mattingly returned to baseball as a coach with the Yankees.
Barrett's older brother was good friends with Mattingly's oldest, and Barrett remains good friends with Preston Mattingly. The two played together at Central High School in Evansville, and Preston even served as a groomsman in Barrett's wedding. The two remain in touch and got to visit during the Nats' recent trip to Houston, as Mattingly -- who spent six seasons in the Dodgers' Minor League system -- now plays Division I basketball at Lamar University.
"We just grew up with that family," Don Mattingly said of the Barretts. "So we were at their house, and they were at our house. I remember him being kind of a funny kid, quiet, and the whole family's athletic. … Good kid, good to see him."
Being friends with Don Mattingly's son had its perks for Barrett over the years. Mattingly would help out with their Little League and high school teams, using his keen eye to tweak their swings. He'd do the same when big leaguers such as Derek Jeter came to visit.
"I still remember when Jeter came in one offseason," Barrett said. "They had a batting cage at their farm and so I'd go over and he'd break down their swing. I remember Jeter took a couple hacks and [Mattingly] was like, 'You need to do this.' It was unbelievable."
Several years later, Mattingly isn't giving Barrett any more tips, at least over the next few days.
"He said, 'Hey, I've been rooting for you, but I'm not rooting for you these three games,'" Barrett said.
Ramos could return to Nationals by weekend
WASHINGTON -- Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos caught nine innings for Double-A Harrisburg and went 0-for-4 in its 8-2 loss at home Monday night against Richmond, the latest step in his Minor League rehab assignment.
Ramos, out since suffering a left hamate fracture on Opening Day, spent time at extended spring camp in Viera, Fla., then played for Class A Hagerstown on Sunday. He served as the designated hitter and went 2-for-3 with a home run.
The Nats wanted to see Ramos get through nine innings behind the plate, with his left hand taking the pounding from catching pitch after pitch. If there are no setbacks, Ramos would stay on track to return sometime this week. Manager Matt Williams indicated that could be as soon as Friday, when the Nats begin a series in Oakland after an off-day.
"Catch nine innings and see where he is after that, that he feels good," Williams said. "Ultimately we would love for him to run the bases more, but the problem is he's been hitting them over the fence. That's a hard one. You'd like him to go first to third or try to score from first and make sure that he's done all those things that you normally do."
• Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, on the disabled list since April 13 with a right thumb fracture, still hasn't progressed to being able to work on strengthening the thumb, according to Williams. Zimmerman is likely about a week away from that point, although Williams couldn't be sure of his progress until doctors evaluate X-rays of the thumb that were scheduled to be taken on Monday.
• Before Monday's series opener against the Dodgers, Williams still was not ready to name a starting pitcher for Tuesday night's contest. The Nats could use a reliever such as left-hander Ross Detwiler or call up a pitcher from the Minor Leagues.
• Catcher Jose Lobaton was out of the lineup for a second straight day on Monday with shin soreness. Lobaton was hit by a pitch there on Saturday, and Williams said the area remained swollen on Monday, although Lobaton was well enough to be available off the bench.