Ferrer has lat injury, Rutledge will start "Spring Breakout" game

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – One of the four left-handers competing for spots in the Nationals’ Opening Day bullpen is dealing with a physical setback that could hurt his chances.

Jose A. Ferrer hasn’t pitched in six days due to an issue with his lat muscle, manager Davey Martinez revealed today. It’s unclear when he’ll be ready to return to the mound.

“He’s got a little bit of a lat thing going on,” Martinez said. “I’ll know more about what’s going on with him in the next day or two.”

Ferrer has made only three game appearances this spring, two of them coming during the first week of Grapefruit League play on Feb. 26 and Feb. 29. He then sat eight days before his next appearance March 8, when he tossed two scoreless innings but apparently was already dealing with some discomfort. He hasn’t pitched since.

“It’s been bothering him,” Martinez said. “We’ll see.”

Ferrer, 24, is competing with Robert Garcia, Richard Bleier and Joe La Sorsa for or two spots in the Opening Day bullpen the Nats would like to give to a left-hander. Bleier, in camp as a non-roster invitee, has made a team-high seven appearances, allowing only five baserunners and striking out seven. La Sorsa, who was dropped from the 40-man roster over the winter, has allowed only one run in 5 2/3 innings. Garcia, who has received the most praise from Martinez this spring, has a 3.86 ERA across seven innings.

Ferrer actually has pitched better than any of them, with only two batters reaching base in four innings of work. But his inexperience – and the fact he still has minor league options – probably put him in a disadvantageous position entering camp. And now his injury leaves him with little time to win a job.

* Jackson Rutledge will start Friday’s “Spring Breakout” prospects game against the Mets, a high-profile assignment for the 24-year-old right-hander.

Though Rutledge has four games of major league experience, he is still considered one of the organization’s top pitching prospects. The 2019 first-round draft pick is probably headed to Triple-A Rochester to begin the season, though he’s still officially on the major league spring training roster.

This will be Rutledge’s fourth appearance of the spring, his second start. He built up to three innings and 56 pitches Sunday against the Twins, but he won’t have the opportunity to go that far Friday.

With a host of prospects scheduled to pitch during the seven-inning exhibition game, Rutledge is likely to only go one or two innings, according to Martinez.

* Trevor Williams will start the Grapefruit League game that follows Friday’s “Spring Breakout” contest, his third outing of the spring. He’s the last member of the projected rotation to take his turn, but before they start over the Nationals will use a bullpen game Saturday against the Cardinals.

Martinez said he wanted to make sure some of the relievers competing for spots on the Opening Day roster get a chance to face a big league lineup, which they’ll get when pitching the early innings Saturday afternoon.

“We’ve got 10 days, with a lot of decisions we need to make.”

Martinez hasn’t announced rotation plans beyond Saturday, but it would normally be Patrick Corbin’s turn to start Sunday, with either MacKenzie Gore or Josiah Gray on track to start Monday.

Asked today if he knows the identity of his Opening Day starter yet, Martinez insisted he does not.

“No. I’m getting there,” the manager said. “I’m working some things out. But I’ll know hopefully by the end of the weekend.”

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