What’s the state of Nats bullpen entering tonight’s game?

Tuesday night’s 10-4 win over the Phillies took a lot out of the Nationals. They only got three innings out of Tanner Roark because of a 1-hour, 45-minute rain delay that prevented the starter from retaking the mound.

That forced an already makeshift bullpen to churn out six innings, with no true long man available after Tommy Milone threw four innings in garbage time during Sunday’s blowout loss to the Marlins and then landed on the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation.

Grace-Pitch-White-v-Red-Sox-sidebar.jpgDavey Martinez tried to get three innings out of Matt Grace, but after running the bases in the bottom of the fifth he ran out of gas in the top of the sixth and failed to retire any of the four batters he faced. Which then resulted in six more relievers combining to pitch the final four innings of a must-win game.

Where, then, does that leave the Nationals relief corps heading into tonight’s game? Not in a great place, especially with Stephen Strasburg making his return from the DL.

Martinez said there’s no hard pitch limit for Strasburg in his first start in a month and only his second in 2 1/2 months - “He’s got free rein to go out and pitch,” the manager said - but the dugout certainly will be watching him closely and won’t extend him as far as they normally would had he been healthy for a while.

Grace, it probably goes without saying, is unavailable after throwing 34 pitches. The Nationals probably also want to stay away from Jimmy Cordero, who threw 20 pitches in relief of Grace.

Tim Collins (eight pitches), Justin Miller (13), Koda Glover (16) and Wander Suero (four) all should be available to return to pitch tonight. And Greg Holland, the only member of the ‘pen who didn’t appear in Tuesday’s game, will be available, as well.

Whether Kelvin Herrera is available is uncertain. The right-hander returned from the DL to pitch the ninth inning, throwing 13 pitches during an impressive 1-2-3 frame. Under normal circumstances, a club would want to stay off a reliever who just missed time with a shoulder injury and not pitch him on back-to-back days.

But Herrera went out to right field this afternoon to play catch and report back to Martinez about how he felt, and the manager was at least keeping open the possibility that his closer could be good to go.

If you’re wondering about Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, both veterans remain on the DL, and neither appears to be on the verge of being activated. Doolittle, out since July 7 with a stress reaction in his left foot, continues to throw off a mound, and Martinez said today those sessions have been going “a little better” than they previously did. Madson, meanwhile, went to Arizona over the weekend to work with trainer Jay Schroeder and has yet to be seen back at Nationals Park.

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