Thomas finding consistency in leadoff spot


Lane Thomas is on a heater this month. In 23 games so far in May, he's slashing .326/.367/.620 with a .987 OPS, four doubles, a triple, all seven of his season’s home runs, 15 RBIs and 19 runs scored.

That’s a complete 180-degree turnaround from April, when he hit slashed .260/.327/.302 with a .629 OPS and just four extra-base hits.

Thomas is hoping he can take his production this month and stay consistent throughout the season. One correlation to his strong May is his consistent place atop the Nationals lineup. It may not be the exact reason, but there are definitely parallels.

“I don't know if it has to do with just leadoff or not leadoff,” Thomas said. “I think I've said this before just trying to be a little more consistent at the plate was just my focus this offseason and spring training and now. Just being more consistent with getting swings off in good counts and just get a little confidence in doing that.”

The 27-year-old only hit leadoff eight times over his 25 games in April, with Alex Call getting most of the at-bats in the top spot. But starting May 6, Thomas been put in the leadoff spot in every game he’s played since. Over those 18 games, he’s slashing .325/.374/.571 with a .945 OPS, four doubles, five homers, 11 RBIs and 16 runs scored.

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Nats come back, but eventually lose on Harvey's blown save (updated)


The Nationals’ clutch hits have come in bunches. Either they get a lot or none at all.

And their bullpen hasn’t always been clutch. Either its lockdown or shaky.

For the first half of today’s finale against the Padres, it looked like it was going to be one of those games where they would get neither. But then the script flipped in the seventh inning, as the Nats put up five runs to take a 6-5 lead and the relievers kept that way for Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey in the eighth and ninth.

Finnegan made it through his inning clean. But Harvey, seeking his third save of the season, couldn’t close out the victory.

Facing the Padres’ 2-3-4 hitters, Harvey gave up back-to-back singles to Jake Cronenworth and Juan Soto (who finished the day 1-for-1 with four walks). Harvey was able to then strike out the next two batters, but then served up a three-run home run to Rougned Odor on a 99 mph fastball that ended up just inside the right field foul pole.

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Nats finding success against high volume of lefty starters

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The Nationals have had a rough go to the start of the season in terms of opposing starting pitchers. They’re facing left-handed starters at a higher rate than usual, which early on led to some inconsistencies in their lineup constructions.

When the Nats face the Padres’ Blake Snell in this afternoon’s series finale, it will be their 19th time in their first 50 games facing an opposing lefty starter. That’s almost a 40 percent rate, unusually high over the first two months of the season, with possibly more on the way.

“Yes,” manager Davey Martinez answered during his pregame media session when asked if this amount of opposing left-handed starters is unusual. “We've seen a lot of lefties. I think we'll get another one too in Kansas City. So yeah, we have seen quite a bit of lefties. But the thing about it is our left-handed hitters are not doing bad against them, it's kind of nice.”

It’s almost ironic that the Nationals have faced this many southpaws to start the year. Over the offseason, the focus was on acquiring a left-handed-hitting corner outfielder and possibly a backup lefty first baseman to fill out the roster. They were able to get both and then some.

Corey Dickerson was the left corner outfielder and Dominic Smith was the starting left-handed first baseman, allowing Joey Meneses to shift to designated hitter full time. Add switch-hitter Jeimer Candelario and the Nats could actually have more lefty bats than righty in their lineup on a given night.

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Game 50 lineups: Nats vs. Padres

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How are we at Game 50 already? It’s almost Memorial Day Weekend and this season seems to be flying by.

Also, who would have taken a 21–28 Nationals record through the first 49 games? That’s a three-game improvement from where they were at this point last season.

To add one more to the win column and take this three-game series against the Padres, the Nats will turn to Jake Irvin, who is 1-2 with 5.50 ERA and 1.611 WHIP over his first four major league starts. After allowing only one earned run over his first two starts, he’s allowed 10 over his last two, going only 7 ⅓ innings. The young right-hander will look to get back to what led to his early success.

The Padres are throwing veteran left-hander Blake Snell for this getaway-day finale. The 30-year-old has struggled to start the year, going 1-6 with a 5.60 ERA and 1.556 WHIP over his first nine starts. He was knocked around for six runs in just four innings in his last start against the Red Sox.

Snell is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 1.182 WHIP in four career starts against the Nats.

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Doolittle throwing back-to-back days, plus other updates

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Sean Doolittle is making a significant step in his recovery from an elbow procedure done last year.

Rehabbing at the Nationals' facility in West Palm Beach, Doolittle will start throwing on back-to-back days, the next benchmark he’s been working toward for a while.

“Sean Doolittle is gonna go back-to-back days now,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame media session. “Once he does that, then we'll reassess and go from there.”

The veteran left-hander was limited to just 5 ⅓ innings in six games with the Nationals last year before being shut down with an elbow injury. After trying to just rest it, Doolittle decided to undergo a similar but less invasive procedure as Tommy John surgery with the hope that he would recover faster and be able to pitch this season.

He reported to spring training healthy on a minor league deal, but was ultimately shut down out of precaution of ramping up too fast. If Doolittle feels good after throwing back-to-back games, the Nationals could start looking to get him into game action.

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Smith spends Saturday with young ballplayers in D.C.

Dominic Smith youth baseball

It’s common during homestands to find Nationals players out and about in D.C., getting active in the community. The organization has been committed to giving back to the area for a long time, centered around its Youth Baseball Academy.

But the players don’t have to be at the academy to get involved in youth baseball around town. That’s why Dominic Smith and other Nats players found themselves in Livingston Park in Chevy Chase yesterday morning with a group of Capitol City Little League kids – my 8-year-old nephew Jack included – ahead of their late-afternoon game.

“I had a great time today,” Smith said Saturday before the Nats’ 5-2 win over the Tigers. “Over there, Capitol City Little League, got to see a bunch of different age groups from like 8 to like 12. And just to see them, see the energy that they brought, I kind of fed off of that and I had a great time. Those kids are very competitive. They got some really good coaches out there because some of those swings were really impressive, especially for the age groups. And it was just fun. It was a great day to just spend some time with them and get to show them who I am as a person because sometimes they don't get to see stuff like that.”

Smith and the kids went through typical baseball drills like hitting balls off a practice tee. It must feel good as a kid to get a couple of good hacks in and have a major leaguer be impressed by your swing.

And the kids should be impressed by Smith’s swing as of late. Before yesterday’s 0-for-4 outing, he had been hitting .343 over his previous 20 games to raise his batting average by 54 points.

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Nats complete comeback this time in win over Tigers (updated)


The Nationals’ rally last night came up just short. Down 8-0 in the series opener to the Tigers, they were able to come back to make it a two-run game late, but eventually fell 8-6.

They faced another deficit Saturday. Though this one was not nearly as large, they were able to complete the comeback for a 5-2 win in front of 31,721 fans on a beautiful day at Nats Park.

Patrick Corbin got them in a hole early by giving up a first-pitch single to Matt Vierling to start the game and then a two-run home run to slugger Spencer Torkelson three batters later. It wasn’t necessarily a bad pitch – a 92 mph four-seam fastball in the upper right corner of the strike zone – but Torkelson was just able to muscle it out.

“It was a fastball up," the left-hander said of the home run ball after the game. "Tried to get it in, kind of leaked out over. But still felt really good. Located fastball well today. They're a pretty aggressive team, so a lot of quick outs and some early hits that I gave up as well. But defense was great behind me. Overall, felt pretty good.”

As Corbin has done more often this season than in the past three, he didn’t let the early homer derail his start. He was steady from that point on to turn in his fourth straight quality start and his sixth in his last seven outings.

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Kuhl reinstated to bullpen, Harris optioned to Rochester

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The Nationals have made their decision on Chad Kuhl. He was officially reinstated from the 15-day injured list, while Hobie Harris was optioned to Triple-A Rochester.

Kuhl had been on the  IL with a right foot issue since April 30 and threw 65 pitches over four simulated innings Monday. He played catch yesterday before the Nats made their final decision on the roster move.

The other intriguing part of his return is that the Nationals plan to utilize him out of the bullpen. That is so they can both monitor his innings while he provides length in the ‘pen and keep Jake Irvin in the rotation.

“It gives us length in the bullpen, which will be nice,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame media session. “But he's just coming back, so I want to make sure, as we do this, that he probably gets clean innings. But he definitely gives us multiple innings if we need. The last sim game, he threw the ball exceptionally well. He was up in the mid-90s with his fastball, was throwing strikes. Slider was really, really good. So that was encouraging. So we'll get him in the bullpen and get him going. And then we'll see where it takes us.”

Other options included having him go on a minor league rehab assignment to build up his pitch count more. The Nats also could have kept him here to pitch another sim game. Or they could have activated him back into the rotation and optioned Irvin back to Rochester.

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Game 46 lineups: Nats vs. Tigers

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Happy Star Wars Day from Nationals Park! The team is giving away dueling light side vs. dark side Hawaiian shirts to fans today, so make sure you get to the gates on time.

On the field, the pitching duel sees Patrick Corbin making his 10th start of the season for the light side and Alex Faedo starting for the dark side.

Corbin is 2-5 with a 4.65 ERA and 1.430 WHIP entering this afternoon’s game. He has pitched much better over his last six starts, to the tune of a 3.47 ERA, though he is only 1-3 in those outings and the Nats have split them evenly.

Faedo is the only right-hander scheduled to start for the Tigers this weekend. The 27-year-old former first-round pick is making his third start of the season. He is 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA over his first two, with the Tigers having lost both games. He is 1-5 with a 5.32 ERA and 1.492 WHIP over the first 14 starts of his young career.

There’s a chance of rain tonight, supposedly starting around 6 p.m. Here's hoping we can avoid a repeat of last Saturday’s suspended game and either finish this one in time or avoid getting wet all together.

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Still full of joy, Sánchez retires after lengthy career and World Series title

Anibal Sanchez NLCS

MIAMI – Aníbal Sánchez’s career was one that was well traveled. Sixteen major league seasons brought him many personal accomplishments, which all led to the ultimate prize in his last true full campaign.

So when the 39-year-old finally made the decision to retire and he sat down to write out his announcement before posting it on his Instagram account, he had a lot to look back on and be proud of.

“I think just yesterday when I post my (announcement) and I noticed everybody that I'm retiring, I saw 17 years pass in two minutes and a half. It was incredible,” Sánchez said Wednesday afternoon in the Nationals dugout at loanDepot Park with media members from both Washington and Miami surrounding him and his family looking on. “Sounds easy, but it's not like that. The most thing that I'm proud of me through my whole career, I past bad moments and I had always the power to come back and keep going in my career.”

Sánchez retired after 16 major league seasons. He spent parts of seven with the Marlins, parts of six with the Tigers, one with the Braves and the last three with the Nationals. He is the owner of a no-hitter, one of the most impressive postseason performances in history and a World Series championship ring.

“I think for me, every single day I come to the field and most of the things that I say to the guys is just working hard,” he said. “It's a sport for everybody else, but it's work and a job for us. So take it serious, work hard and we're going to have time for everything. For having fun, for working out, for preparing our game, for being outside and making it a good show for the fans and also make some wins for the team.”

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Nats swept by Marlins for fourth time in last seven series (updated)

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MIAMI – The Nationals can’t seem to catch the Marlins for whatever reason. They came into this afternoon needing a victory to avoid a three-game sweep.

Although Trevor Williams pitched a quality start and Jeimer Candelario continued with his hot bat, the Nationals fell again to the Fish by a score of 5-3 in front of an announced crowd of 7,752 at loanDepot Park.

“Tough game," manager Davey Martinez said after the loss. "We tried to make a comeback there, just couldn't finish it. We just didn't hit enough this series. I thought we pitched pretty good. Just the bats got cold on us. So we gotta come back and start swinging the bats, get the ball in the strike zone. We had one ending there where I thought things were gonna snap out of it and then we hit into a double play. So tough series, like you said, and we just gonna come back tomorrow and be ready to play.”

This has become all too familiar for the Nats. They have now lost six of their last seven series against Miami dating back to last year, and have been swept four times.

The Nationals had trouble with Marlins rookie right-hander Eury Pérez, who was making just his second major league start. The 20-year-old is the Marlins’ top-ranked prospect, the No. 7 ranked prospect in all of baseball and the No. 2 ranked right-handed pitching prospect in the sport, per MLB Pipeline. He came in with a fastball that sits at 94-97 mph and peaks at 100, a deceptive upper-80s changeup, an upper-70s curveball and a mid-80s slider.

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Cavalli excited to rejoin Nats for the weekend while progressing in rehab

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MIAMI – Cade Cavalli’s face lit up as he entered the Nationals clubhouse at loanDepot park this morning. It was the first time he was going to be around his teammates since they broke camp in West Palm Beach back in March.

If only for a few days, the young right-hander is leaving the monotony of rehabbing his right elbow at the Nats' spring training facility after Tommy John surgery and join the team for a weekend back in D.C.

Cavalli arrived with a suitcase and equipment bag in tow. He quickly changed out of his street clothes and into his Nationals gear. Though he won’t pitch this year, he was a part of the team again.

“I'm gonna fly with the team tonight to D.C. and spend the weekend there with them,” Cavalli said with the joy clearly across his face. “It'd be great to be able to get back to D.C. and hang around the guys for more than one day. So I'm really excited about it. It's gonna be a great change of scenery for me. And then right back to Florida, and we're getting right back after it.”

It’s only two months into a lengthy rehab process, but Cavalli has made significant strides that have him and the organization optimistic about his recovery and return next year.

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Game 44 lineups: Nats at Marlins

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MIAMI – After dropping the first two games here against the Marlins, the Nationals need a win this afternoon to avoid a sweep.

That’s a position they are all too familiar with from last year. The Nationals lost five of their six series against the Fish in 2022, putting themselves in position to get swept in all five, and actually losing each game of the series three times.

They’ll rely on former Marlins draft pick Trevor Williams to help get the job done. Williams, who was a second-round pick by the Marlins in 2013, brings a 1-1 record, 4.23 ERA and 1.304 WHIP to his ninth start of the season. Having pitched in the National League his entire career to date, and with the Mets the previous two seasons, he has substantial history against Miami, going 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in nine appearances (four starts).

Eury Pérez gets the call for his second major league start for the home team. He is young, but has a big presence on the mound as the 20-year-old right-hander is listed at 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds. Signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, he is the Marlins’ top-ranked prospect, the No. 7 ranked prospect in all of baseball and the No. 2 ranked right-handed pitching prospect in the sport, per MLB Pipeline. He had a 2.32 ERA over six starts with Double-A Pensacola before getting the call to the majors, skipping Triple-A ball.

Pérez gave up two runs on four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over 4 ⅔ innings in his major league debut Friday against the Reds. He has a fastball that sits at 94-97 mph and peaks at 100, a deceptive upper-80s changeup, an upper-70s curveball and a mid-80s slider.

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Even after homering in return, Dickerson still being patient with his swing


MIAMI – It had been 46 days since Corey Dickerson’s last at-bat in a major league game. He was 0-for-3 with a walk over the Nationals’ first two games of the season before landing on the 10-day injured list with a left calf strain.

So, forgive him for not wasting any time in giving the Nats a big swing when he stepped to the plate for the first time last night, his first game since being activated off the IL on Monday.

Dickerson jumped on the second pitch he saw from Marlins starter Edward Cabrera, a 97 mph sinker right down the middle of the plate and crushed it 432 feet into the right-field upper deck of loanDepot Park. The ball left his bat at 109 mph, the fastest exit velocity by any hitter last night to go along with the furthest distance of any hit ball.

“That was one of those that I finally got my timing the way I wanted working on it down there (on his rehab assignment),” he said after the 4-3 loss. “And yeah, it's one of those you don't forget. But it's also good to have just a hard hit ball just so you can remember. That's good going forward. You can keep that in the back of your mind and know that you did it and you're not having to search for it. You know it's in there. So just get your work in and compete.”

All of his frustrations from the past month and a half let out on his first swing. That poor baseball.

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Nats come up short again in 4-3 loss to Marlins (updated)

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MIAMI – MacKenzie Gore had to grind through his last start on Friday against the Mets. He needed 96 pitches to get through four scoreless innings.

Manager Davey Martinez said before Gore’s start tonight that the young left-hander needed to pound the strike zone to be more efficient with his pitches.

Gore was able to stay in the zone, but that wasn’t always a good thing. Unfortunately, one of those pitches was left too much in the zone and helped stake the Marlins to a 4-3 win over the Nationals in front of an announced crowd of 8,451 at loanDepot Park.

The southpaw started off strong with a 1-2-3 first inning that included a strikeout on 13 pitches and had a 2-0 lead by the time he took the mound in the second.

But he walked Bryan De La Cruz and gave him second base on a wild pitch. Jean Segura then singled to center to put runners on the corners and set up Yuli Gurriel’s sacrifice fly to left field.

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Meneses placed on paternity list, Alu recalled from Rochester

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MIAMI – There was a noticeable change in the Nationals clubhouse at loanDepot Park this afternoon. Jake Alu had a locker and Joey Meneses didn’t.

At first, it seemed like a curious development. But it turns out to be a joyous roster move.

The Nationals announced that Meneses has been placed on the paternity list with his fiancé, Mitzy Guzman, giving birth to the couple’s first child, Joseph, today. Alu rejoins the Nats to take his spot on the roster.

“Joey went on their (paternity) list today,” manager Davey Martinez said to begin his pregame media session. “His wife's expecting, so we will find out more here hopefully soon. Jake Alu is on his way. So when we get him here, we'll make that move.”

Meneses is eligible to return to the active roster on Saturday against the Tigers.

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Game 43 lineups: Nats at Marlins

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MIAMI – The Nationals will try to bounce back after last night’s heartbreaking loss to the Marlins when Hunter Harvey surrendered a two-run walk-off home run to Jorge Soler.

There are still two games left to play in this series and the Nats will have another good chance to get a win tonight with MacKenzie Gore on the mound. The young left-hander is 3-2 with a 3.29 ERA and 1.463 WHIP over his first eight starts, while still sporting an impressive 11.2 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate. Gore gutted through four shutout innings Friday against the Mets, a high pitch count of 96 shortening his outing. He’ll try to keep it down tonight in his first career start against the Marlins.

Edward Cabrera gets the start for the Fish. The 25-year-old right-hander is 2-3 with a 5.35 ERA and 1.670 WHIP over his first eight starts. He has struggled to get deep into games this year, only pitching into the sixth once. Cabrera is 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA and 1.063 WHIP in three career starts against the Nats.

The Nationals are planning to platoon left field with Corey Dickerson getting the starts against right-handers and Stone Garrett starting against lefties. With Cabrera on the mound for Miami, Dickerson returns to the lineup for the first time since being reinstated from the injured list on Monday, but as the designated hitter. He only appeared in the first two games of the season, as a pinch-hitter on Opening Day and as the starting left fielder on April 1 before hurting his calf in the eighth inning.

A roster move is expected to come before the game. Jake Alu has a locker in the Nats clubhouse and Joey Meneses doesn’t. Meneses’ wife is pregnant and due soon, so he should land on the paternity list. Ildemaro Vargas is playing left field while Dickerson is the DH.

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Gray learning to control emotions in high-leverage situations

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MIAMI – Last night’s outing probably would have gone very differently for Josiah Gray if it had occurred last year. And for the worse.

Then 24, Gray had to learn on the fly during his first full major league campaign while being entrusted to take the ball every fifth day as part of the Nationals rotation. While there were some positives to take away (he stayed healthy throughout the course of the season while pitching a career-high 148 ⅔ innings over 28 starts), there were some learning curves as well (he led the major leagues with 38 homers and led the National League with 66 walks).

But last night’s start, while nothing too exciting to write home about, showed the important improvement Gray has made so far this season.

If it were a start in 2022, it would have likely been an outing that would have gotten away from Gray and fast. Especially against the Marlins, against whom he went 0-3 with a 5.67 ERA and a 1.560 WHIP in six starts last season.

But now in 2023, he was able to take the good and the bad and turn it into his fourth quality start in his last five outings.

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Walk-off homer off Harvey dooms Nats against Marlins (updated)

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MIAMI – The Nationals have found enough offense to play .500 ball since the first week of the season. Without a lack of a true power source, it was a serious question of how they would generate runs this season.

Since that 1-6 start, they have found that their style of baseball is good enough to win games and score runs in a variety of ways, even without a lot of longballs.

That style was on full display tonight in what appeared to be a 4-2 win over the Marlins. But a walk-off two-run home run by Jorge Soler off Hunter Harvey in the ninth turned it into a 5-4 loss in front of an announced crowd of 8,811 at loanDepot Park.

Pitching against a team for whom his father recorded 51 saves, Harvey entered the ninth trying to protect the Nats' two-run lead that they had built in the previous inning. He recorded a flyout and a strikeout on 10 pitches, needing just one more out for his second career save.

But a double by Garrett Cooper and an RBI single by Luis Arraez made it a one-run game, too close for comfort. Pinch-runner Jon Berti stole second base to put the tying run in scoring position, which was ultimately unnecessary thanks to Soler's 10th homer of the season.

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Nats to consider six-man rotation with Kuhl's impending return

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MIAMI – The Nationals are getting closer to activating Chad Kuhl off the 15–day injured list while he continues his recovery from right foot metatarsalgia. Though they still have time to decide, the question is now becoming: How will they adjust the pitching staff when he’s finally ready to return?

Kuhl is eligible to come off the IL now, having been placed back on May 1 but retroactive to April 30. His biggest step in his rehab was throwing 65 pitches over four innings in a simulated game yesterday afternoon and reporting that he felt great today.

“Chad came out of his simulated game feeling good,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame session with the media ahead of tonight’s opener against the Marlins. “So we're gonna reevaluate and see what the next step would be for him.”

The right-hander, who was only in the Nats rotation because of Cade Cavalli’s Tommy John surgery coming out of spring training, is 0-2 with a 9.41 ERA and 1.955 WHIP over five starts this season. The Nationals have only won one of the games started by him, and that was largely thanks to the 10 runs they scored while he pitched just 3 ⅔ innings on April 22 in Minnesota.

The Nationals are still evaluating the situation and how they’ll move forward with him and the rotation.

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