WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Though he couldn’t make his scheduled start Monday due to an illness, A.J. Cole is already back throwing and should be able to slot back into his spot in the Nationals rotation by the end of the week.
Cole was supposed to face the Tigers in Lakeland but had to be scratched a day in advance after he fell victim to a stomach bug. The right-hander did feel well enough Monday to throw a side session off a bullpen mound, manager Davey Martinez said, and he emerged from that feeling well.
The Nationals haven’t revealed their rotation plans for the rest of the week beyond their next game Thursday - Tommy Milone will start against the Astros - but Martinez expects Cole to re-take the mound “either sometime this weekend or Monday.” The goal is to get him back into a position where he could return to his original spot within the rotation.
“Absolutely,” Martinez said. “If he has to go pitch in a minor league game or whatever, we’ll get him back into that slot.”
Cole, who entered camp as the favorite to open the season as the Nationals’ No. 5 starter, has allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings in two starts so far this spring. Top pitching prospect Erick Fedde has allowed three runs and 11 hits in nine innings spread out over four appearances (two starts). Milone (eight scoreless innings) has impressed so far, while veteran Edwin Jackson (three runs in nine innings) remains another fallback option for one of the only true open competitions in this camp.
“We haven’t made any decisions on it,” Martinez said. “Of course A.J.’s in the mix, but we’ve seen a lot of good things out of other people. Right now it’s still up in the air, and we’ll see where it goes.”
“Soon, but they’re doing well,” Martinez said. “Taylor played the other day, felt really good. These guys can get all their baseball activities done. They’re doing really well. (Taylor) got a couple hits and felt good. His swing looks good. We’ll do that a couple times, cause it’s controlled. He can play the field when he wants. He can hit every other inning if he wants. It’s totally up to him.”
Daniel Murphy has not progressed to the point where he’s ready to play in games yet, but the veteran second baseman has been taking batting practice on the field with teammates in recent days. Murphy, who had microfracture knee surgery in October, looked smooth taking swings this afternoon but he’s not yet swinging at 100 percent, relying more on his hands than his legs at this point.