WASHINGTON -- The Nationals were without two of their best hitters as they began a three-game set with the Phillies on Tuesday night.
Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche were both held out of manager Davey Johnson's lineup with different back ailments. Zimmerman appeared to tweak his back while sliding into home plate in the 11th inning of Sunday's 11-10 win over the Brewers in Milwaukee. Johnson was hopeful the injury is just a "day-to-day thing" for Zimmerman, who has been one of the best hitters in all of baseball over the past month, batting .366 with a 1.186 OPS, 10 home runs and 24 RBIs in July.
Johnson declined to say whether Zimmerman or LaRoche would be available to pinch-hit.
"He looked all right, he wasn't really slouched over or nothing," Johnson said. "He whirlpooled and got a little treatment. I hope to just nip this in the bud."
LaRoche, meanwhile, has been dealing with back spasms since leaving Sunday's game in the fourth inning. The Nationals have considered their first baseman day to day with the injury, though LaRoche has been dealing with lower back soreness for a week or two. With the short turnaround following Saturday night's game, LaRoche was unable to fully stretch his back out as he usually does.
"I felt like it was kind of going the other direction [Sunday]," LaRoche said after the game. "I felt like the more I stood around in the field and sat on the bench, the tighter it was getting. Hopefully [Monday], having a day off can get it feeling better."
Tuesday afternoon, Johnson said LaRoche is feeling better and holding him out of the lineup is mainly precautionary. LaRoche leads the Nationals with 19 home runs, 61 RBIs and an .840 OPS.
"After a guy comes back from something, I like to see him go through a workout," Johnson said. "I don't want to take a chance to where he re-injures it."
Tracy returns from DL to bolster Nats' bench
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals reinstated Chad Tracy from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, bringing back the team's best bat off the bench. To make room on the 25-man roster, Corey Brown was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.
Tracy had been out since May 26 with a right adductor strain after batting .265 with three doubles, three home runs and 12 RBIs in 32 games. As a pinch-hitter, the 32-year-old utility man is 6-for-18 with a homer and nine RBIs (tied for second in the Majors).
With the Nationals tied for the best record in baseball entering a three-game series with the Phillies, Tracy said he's "probably as close as I'm going to get" to feeling 100-percent healthy.
"My swing feels good, that's the most important thing," Tracy said. "Being able to come off the bench and give a quality at-bat, I think I can do that."
Manager Davey Johnson said Tracy was available off the bench for Tuesday night's game, which the Nats entered with Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche both sidelined with back injuries.
Brown, meanwhile, returns to Syracuse after his second stint in the big leagues lasted only six games. The 26-year-old rookie outfielder batted .188 (3-for-16) with a double, home run and two RBIs in nine games with the Nats.
Werth's next step is back-to-back full games
WASHINGTON -- Jayson Werth was at Nationals Park on Tuesday, and he should be back in the Nationals' lineup before they hit the road again.
Manager Davey Johnson said Werth, out since May 6 with a broken left wrist, will play two or three more Minor League rehab games with nearby Class A Potomac before rejoining Washington sometime on this homestand. General manager Mike Rizzo expected Werth to play back-to-back nine-inning games, and the outfielder will be evaluated after that.
"He feels like he could play, but he's not quite 100 percent," Johnson said. "Hopefully before the homestand's up, he'll be ready to come back."
"He's walking around feeling pretty good about himself," added Rizzo. "He's in good spirits. He says he feels good, with a little normal soreness, but I think that he's well on his way to coming back."
Werth has yet to play a full nine-inning game in eight rehab games with Class A Potomac and Triple-A Syracuse. In seven games with Syracuse, he's hitting .238 with two doubles, four RBIs, six walks and five strikeouts.
Johnson said he's likely to stick with an eight-man bullpen.
"Probably, the next thing I'll do will be probably adding to it. That's in a month. But so far, we've been managing to get by."
Johnson said Jhonatan Solano's oblique injury is feeling "a lot better."
With the Nationals facing their second doubleheader in as many weeks on Friday, John Lannan will likely make his second start of the season. Lannan started the second game of the July 21 doubleheader with the Braves.
Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.