NEW YORK - Manager Dusty Baker said the main reason the Nationals sent right-hander Trevor Gott back to Triple-A Syracuse today and brought up left-hander Matt Grace was the taxing outings Gott had to endure over the past two games.
“The bullpen move was precipitated by the fact (Gott) had gone two innings yesterday and threw 50 and he had thrown the day before, and actually went longer than we wanted him to,” Baker said. “But I told you yesterday was about bullpen preservation after about the fifth inning. He wasn’t going to be any good to us for at least a couple of days because of the amount of pitches he threw and Gracie has been good.
“Also, (the Mets are) predominantly left-handed, so that’s the reason why I made the move. And some of the right-handers even are better against right-handers than left-handers.”
Meanwhile, right-hander Joe Blanton returned from the disabled list with scoreless performances in back-to-back outings June 11 and 14. Baker noticed Blanton has tighter command on his pitches since his return.
“It looks like his slider is better,” Baker said. “And his command on his fastball was better. That’s why we only took him 2/3 of an inning yesterday because we know we would going to probably need him in this history. Also, we want them to leave on a positive, so that you have something to build on in subsequent appearances. He faced two hitters, struck out two hitters, and he hadn’t done that in a while. That’s why we didn’t take him any further.”
Left-hander Sammy Solis remains on the disabled list with left elbow inflammation. Solis started tonight’s game for Triple-A Syracuse against Pawtucket, allowing a leadoff homer and a walk around three groundouts in his inning of work in the first game on his minor league rehabilitation assignment.
“We got it all mapped out for the next (30) days, if it takes that long,” Baker said. “We hope it will be shorter. It depends on how Sammy comes out of these rehab assignments. So he’ll pitch a day, off a day, then pitch two days and be off another day. We’ll see how he responds to the workload.”
The pressure is on for the Nats to start playing better, especially coming into this critical four-game series against the Mets.
The Mets are well aware of the opportunity in front of them with the Nats’ lead in the National League East down to 8 1/2 games. When the Nats were here in April, they swept the Mets. Is this club any different this time around?
“They’re about the same club but they’re a little banged-up,” Baker said. “We’re a little tired and they’re banged-up. So should be a heck of a series. You know they’re going to try to get back in the race in these four games. We’re going to try to extend our lead these four games. Should be a good four games. They depend on the home run and we depend on the home run also, probably not as much as they do.”
A New York reporter asked Baker how the Nationals keep their edge with such a big lead.
“You keep an edge by taking pride in winning and playing,” Baker said. “That’s what it boils down to. The lead don’t mean anything if you don’t have the pride to win. No matter what your lead is, if you don’t feel badly after a loss you shouldn’t be in this business. It’s not about the lead, it’s about us trying to play up to our capabilities in a daily game.”