Adon optioned to Triple-A, Clay recalled

MIAMI – The Nationals gave Joan Adon two months to experience life pitching every fifth day in the big leagues, letting the rookie right-hander take his lumps while trying to emphasize the positives despite his unsightly overall numbers. By the time he was roughed up by the Marlins on Tuesday night, they decided a move was needed.

Adon was optioned to Triple-A Rochester today, a transaction that felt increasingly likely in recent weeks and came to a head during Tuesday’s 12-2 blowout loss. The Nats for now used the roster opening that demotion created to recall reliever Sam Clay from Rochester, though they already know they’ll need to make another move before Thursday’s series finale, in which Stephen Strasburg will come off the 60-day injured list to make his long-awaited season debut.

Adon heads back to the minors after going 1-10 with a major-league-worst 6.95 ERA in 12 starts, capped off by Tuesday’s outing, in which he allowed eight runs before recording an out in the fourth inning.

“At this point, we want him to understand and work on some things without the pressure of going out there every five days and competing up here,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We want him to go down and work on some things. We had a great conversation yesterday, all positive. This kid’s going to come back here. He’s going to help us win games. His stuff is electric. He’s just got to learn how to use it effectively.”

The Nationals knew the risk they were taking putting Adon in their opening day rotation. The 23-year-old made only three starts at Double-A and one at Triple-A before getting the call to make his major league debut in the final game of the 2021 season.

Despite the lack of upper-level experience, the Nats believed Adon was mature enough to handle the major league assignment coming out of spring training. And though the final numbers don’t reflect it, he did put together several impressive starts and left club officials convinced he’s still going to be an effective starter in the long run.

“I think it’s important he understands he’s done nothing wrong,” Martinez said. “Take away the results. He’s a young kid that’s learned. Unfortunately, this is a results-driven business, and he understands that, too. It’s his job to go out there and get better, and come back up and be ready to go again.”

Even with Strasburg’s return Thursday, the Nationals will need another starter no later than Sunday against the Brewers. They also have to deal with a doubleheader next Friday against the Phillies, which will necessitate an additional starter beyond their five-man rotation.

Martinez wasn’t ready to commit to anyone yet but suggested left-hander Evan Lee could get another opportunity to start after making his first relief appearance late in Tuesday’s loss. The rookie, who made his major league debut one week ago in New York, could slide right into Adon’s rotation slot. The team also could stretch out long reliever Paolo Espino and give him a start at some point in the next week.

“I want to sit down with (pitching coach Jim Hickey and general manager Mike Rizzo) and go over the plan, and we’ll come up with what he’s going to do next,” Martinez said. “But (Lee) came out of the bullpen yesterday and he did well. That was good to see. But I know he’s been starting, so we want to kind of keep him stretched out a little bit.”

The decision to recall Clay from Rochester was based both on the club’s need for a left-hander in their bullpen after Lee threw 26 pitches Tuesday and Clay’s positive results at Triple-A. In 15 appearances, he had a 1.26 ERA and 1.116 WHIP, showing more ability to get left-handed hitters out than he did while in the big leagues.

Meanwhile, the Nationals got back MRI results on reliever Victor Arano’s left knee, which revealed a “bad bone bruise,” according to Martinez. Arano, who hurt himself trying to make a play on a ground ball hit to his left Sunday in Cincinnati, was placed on the 15-day IL the following day. Martinez said he likely won’t be ready to resume throwing for at least two weeks.

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Nats recall Clay, option Adon

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