WASHINGTON -- Ryan Mattheus is still a few weeks away from returning to the Nationals, but he took another important step in the rehab process on Sunday.
After throwing only fastballs in his first bullpen session on Friday, Mattheus threw all of his pitches before Sunday's game against the Padres. The right-hander said he will fly to the team's facility in Viera, Fla., on Monday and pitch a simulated game on Tuesday before being re-evaluated. If all goes well, he will pitch in a Gulf Coast League game later in the week.
"My slider felt good today in the bullpen, which it's never really good out on the field," Mattheus said with a smile. "But I had a pretty good slider today, and the split was good, too, so I'm very happy with where I'm at."
Mattheus has missed 44 games this season after punching a locker and breaking his hand on May 19. His return will make for a suddenly crowded bullpen, as recent additions Ian Krol (1.42 ERA) and Fernando Abad (1.08 ERA) have performed admirably since Mattheus' injury.
"These guys coming in, I know Abad's got some Major League experience, a couple years, but he's really stepped up and done an amazing job," Mattheus said. "And what Ian Krol's doing, straight out of Double-A, is storybook. Those guys have stepped up big time."
Nationals manager Davey Johnson knows that he will have to make some difficult decisions in the coming weeks with the expected returns of Mattheus and right-hander Christian Garcia, who is on the 60-day disabled list with a right forearm injury. But Johnson isn't ready to tackle those decisions just yet, deflecting a question about any potential changes to his bullpen.
"I like where we're at," he said on Friday. "The lefties are doing great. Mostly just giving them some work, I haven't really integrated them yet the way I'd like to going forward. But I have a little more of a trust factor in all the guys."
Desmond has mates' support in Final Vote push
WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper already started his campaign to have teammate Ian Desmond join him for the 2013 All-Star Game. Desmond is a National League Final Vote candidate and, on Saturday night, Harper went to his Twitter account and said the following : "We need 2 get @IanDesmond20 to the @AllStarGame! One of the Best SS in the game right now! Great ball player and an even better person! #ASG."
"He is one of the best shortstops in the league right now," Harper said Sunday. "I truly believe that. He is a great person. I think having him in our lineup helps out. He truly deserves to be there.
"He is an unbelievable person in this clubhouse, on the field and off the field. He can swing it -- power, average. He can pick it with the best of them. He is exciting to watch."
Desmond, 27, entered play Sunday leading the Nationals in home runs and RBIs. It helped that he had a hot month of June, in which he drove in 28 runs. Desmond is looking to be named to his second All-Star team. Last year, he was named to the NL All-Star squad, but didn't play because of a left oblique injury.
It seems like yesterday when Desmond received a lot of criticism for making a lot of errors at shortstop and striking out too much. But Desmond decided that he was going to change his approach toward the game before the 2012 season. A conversation with his wife, Chelsey, convinced Desmond to turn to the Lord.
"Ever since I changed my faith in God, my career has been taking off," Desmond said. "I put so much pressure on myself to do it by myself for the first couple of years, and even in the Minor Leagues. I thought I didn't need any help from anybody else. I can do it on my own. Then the weight of it all started overwhelming me. I put my faith in God in my off-the-field life and on-the-field life.
"There is enough to worry about today. … I just take it one day at a time. Things have really transformed for me. I'm finally letting my ability play out instead of trying to force things. That's translated into less errors and more free and easy swings on the field. It really has been life changing. That's the only way I can put it."
It also helped that manager Davey Johnson gave him a vote of confidence, telling Desmond that he was going to be his shortstop no matter what happens. For Desmond, it was like the team was giving him a five-year contract. Johnson has often compared Desmond to Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.
"Words are one thing, actions are another. Davey ran me out there every single day until I said, 'Hey, I need a day off,' " Desmond said. "That's what you want. You want to come to the ballpark , you know you are going to be in the lineup, you know where you are going to be hitting, you know you are going to be a crucial part of the game. And Davey gave that to me."
Desmond is also a team leader and is not afraid to speak his mind, according to teammate Dan Haren.
"He has really stepped up, especially with the ups and downs on how the season has gone," said Haren. "He has been leading vocally in the clubhouse and, obviously, on the field. He always likes to come out to the mound and slows things down for the starting pitcher. He can sense when something is going awry, if the pitcher needs a minute. He will run out and say something, whether it's about baseball or something else to slow the game down. The game can get moving fast for a starting pitcher. I think he realizes that and wants to slow it down."
Now in its 12th year, the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Saturday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and ends Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
There will be an extra treat for fans who participate in the Final Vote online. If you are not a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you are eligible to receive a 14-day free trial of MLB.TV from July 12-26. If you are a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you will receive a 15-percent discount to the MLB.com Shop. MLB.com will send an email on July 12 to all Final Vote voters with instructions on how to redeem the applicable offer.
Mobile voting in the U.S. and Canada is open to everyone. In the U.S., to receive the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for Desmond, simply text message N1 to 89269. In Canada, fans should text N1 to 101010. Standard message and data rates may apply. To vote for another player via text message, use the codes below.
N1 - Ian Desmond, Washington
N2 - Freddie Freeman, Atlanta
N3 - Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles
N4 - Hunter Pence, San Francisco
N5 - Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles
A1 - Joaquin Benoit, Detroit
A2 - Steve Delabar, Toronto
A3 - David Robertson, New York Yankees
A4 - Tanner Scheppers, Texas
A5 - Koji Uehara, Boston
For the second consecutive year, the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by freecreditscore.com (#FinalVote) will include a social balloting element as Twitter support from the candidates' fans over the last six hours of balloting will count toward their final vote totals. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag will be tabulated as part of the overall vote total used to determine the American League and National League winners. Fans may follow @MLB on the popular social networking service for the latest standings updates in advance of the balloting deadline.
Ramos knows Grandal's pain all too well
WASHINGTON -- As Anthony Rendon slid home and crashed into Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal in a force play at the plate on Sunday, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos watched empathetically from the first-base dugout.
The slide damaged ligaments in Grandal's right knee, landing him on the 60-day disabled list, and nobody knows that feeling like Ramos. Last season, the 25-year-old tore his anterior cruciate ligament while chasing a passed ball.
"It's really hard, really hard to see that moment, because I got that kind of hurt," Ramos said. "We don't want to see anybody get hurt like that. It was a hard moment for us, and for him. Hopefully he'll get better soon."
Ramos has twice spent time on the disabled list this season with a strained left hamstring and said the mental aspects of rehab are just as difficult as the physical ones. Entering Sunday, he was 5-for-8 since returning to the team, including a home run and eight RBIs. Still, he is "a little bit scared" about suffering another injury.
Watching Grandal's knee buckle certainly didn't help.
"It's hard for me, I was on the DL for a long time last year. This year, more time," he said. "I'm trying to forget that part and just concentrate, go out there and do my best effort."
• Left-hander Ross Detwiler was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain. Dan Haren will come off the disabled list and make Detwiler's start on Monday against the Phillies, and Taylor Jordan will remain with the team and start on Tuesday.
• Detwiler has been named one of five finalists for the inaugural Bob Feller Act of Valor Award, which honors the legacy of Feller, who is the only U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer in the Hall of Fame. If he is selected, Detwiler will receive the award on Veterans Day at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington.
• Harper has been invited to participate in the Home Run Derby, as first reported by the Washington Post. He had until Sunday night to formally accept or decline the invitation, but wouldn't say after Sunday's game what he had decided.
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. Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Schad. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.