Decision coming on Thompson; Rutledge to start Wednesday

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Nationals hope to have more clarity in the next 24 hours on Mason Thompson, who is set to be re-examined by team doctors after being shut down the last two weeks with a sore elbow.

Thompson reported soreness after one of his final offseason bullpen sessions at home in Texas, and the Nats instructed him not to throw when he arrived at spring training, giving the elbow a chance to calm down before a decision on how to proceed would be made.

That decision is now coming, with Thompson scheduled to be examined later today as the right-hander and the club hold their collective breaths.

“Keeping my fingers crossed,” manager Davey Martinez said. “To be honest with you, I’m a little concerned.”

Thompson had Tommy John surgery nine years ago as a junior in high school. He’s avoided major injuries since then, though he did miss three months in 2022 with a right biceps strain.

This elbow issue was significant enough for him to speak up as soon as it occurred.

“I’ve had Tommy John before, so the feeling wasn’t new,” he said two weeks ago. “I don’t know necessarily if that’s where it’s headed, but I know that it’s felt a little bit more than just your usual soreness.”

Thompson wasn’t guaranteed a spot in the Nationals’ Opening Day bullpen, but he was at times as dominant as any reliever in the majors last season. He opened the year with 17 strikeouts, one walk, an 0.96 ERA and only 11 baserunners allowed in 18 1/3 innings. After a rough May, he bounced back with a strong June that included an 0.82 ERA in 12 appearances. But he struggled through most of the second half and finished the year with a 5.50 ERA and 1.556 WHIP In 51 games.

The Nats have signed several veteran relievers to minor league deals since camp opened, trying to build up depth in case of injuries. Right-handers Derek Law, Robert Gsellman, Luis Perdomo and Jacob Barnes and left-hander Richard Bleier are all in the running for one of a few available spots this spring.

* Jackson Rutledge will get a chance to make a spring start after an impressive debut in relief.

Rutledge will start Wednesday’s game against the Red Sox, Martinez revealed today. That assignment will come four days after the rookie right-hander tossed two innings of relief in the Grapefruit League opener against the Astros, an efficient display that impressed team officials.

Zach Davies, trying to make the team on a minor league deal, starts Tuesday against the Astros. After Rutledge’s outing Wednesday, the rotation turns over and Patrick Corbin makes his second spring start Thursday against the Cardinals.

* Though most of the Nationals’ regulars are in today’s lineup, Nick Senzel is not playing. Senzel, who started Saturday night’s opener, is sick and was sent home to recuperate, Martinez said.

Top infield prospect Brady House gets the nod today at third base in Senzel’s place.

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