After slugging a career-high 17 home runs at Harrisburg last year and earning a September call-up to Washington, Raudy Read appeared on the cusp of earning significant playing time and contributing to the Nationals’ pennant hopes this season.
Instead, the 24-year-old was suspended in the off-season for 80 games after testing positive for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance, and was forced to sit out the first two months of the season before making his 2018 debut on Friday night at FNB Field for the Senators.
“I was a little nervous the first couple of pitches but after that I was fine,” Read said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a real game and feeling the pressure. But it feels good.”
Read caught six frames and went 1-for-3 in his first game action of the season including a stand-up triple to lead off the sixth inning.
The Dominican Republic native worked out in his home country after news of the suspension, but after about a month came to the Nationals’ spring training facilities in West Palm Beach to continue preparation for the season.
“One of the things I was working on in West Palm was my timing,” Read said. “I was just looking for balls up in the zone tonight.”
Although slated to begin the season at Triple-A Syracuse, Read’s suspension hurt the catching-thin Nationals when Matt Weiters injured his hamstring and went on the disabled list on May 11. Since then, Washington has had to rely on Pedro Severino and Spencer Kieboom to carry the load and both have struggled offensively in the role.
The solution may be Read, but even if he shows little to no rust in his return, the backstop still has two weeks (or 14 games) before he’s eligible to be reinstated with the Nationals.
”I was going to go five, but (manager Matt) LeCroy wanted to get me one more at-bat,” Read said. “I told him I was ready to catch the whole game.”