García dealing with sore side; Espino, Gray getting skipped

PHILADELPHIA – News and notes before the Nationals (hopefully) take the field for their series finale against the Phillies (provided the weather holds up) …

* Luis García is out of the lineup for the second straight day. Manager Davey Martinez said on Saturday the young second baseman was simply getting a breather and would be back for today’s game. But it turns out while taking swings in the cage Saturday, García didn’t feel right.

“He actually hit yesterday after we spoke, and he came up to the trainer and said his right side was sore,” Martinez said this morning. “So he got evaluated. They worked on him. I want to be extra careful, so we’ll give him today off. Then we’ve got a scheduled day off tomorrow. So we’ll see how he feels today and then tomorrow.”

With García out, the Nationals interestingly enough are having Ildemaro Vargas start at second base this afternoon, with César Hernández at third base. That’s the opposite alignment they used Saturday night, when both players were charged with throwing errors and Hernández made several other poor throws from second base.

“They’ve both played both positions,” Martinez said. “Give Vargas a day or two over at second base as well, just to see what that looks like. We’ve talked a lot about being versatile, so I want to get him over there. And César’s been playing third base well, so we just decided today we’ll switch it up.”

* Israel Pineda makes his major league debut today, catching Aníbal Sánchez and batting eighth. The 22-year-old catcher spent most of his season at Single-A Wilmington, but earned promotions to Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Rochester before getting called up to the big leagues this weekend after starting catcher Keibert Ruiz landed on the 10-day injured list.

It’s a tough assignment for Pineda, but he’ll have a seasoned batterymate in the 38-year-old Sánchez.

“I wanted to give him a day today to catch Aníbal, just to get him out there and get his feet wet, get his first game,” Martinez said. “We’ll see how he does today, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about him. He’s handled the pitching really well down in Rochester. He swung the bat well. So he’s going to get an opportunity to catch today.”

* The Nationals announced rotation plans for their upcoming, two-game series against the Orioles. Cory Abbott will start Tuesday night, with Patrick Corbin on the mound Wednesday.

That means both Paolo Espino and Josiah Gray will be getting several extra days of rest following their most recent starts, and either could end up having their turn in the rotation skipped altogether.

Abbott, meanwhile, remains in the rotation despite pitching an inning out of the bullpen during Saturday night’s loss. Turns out the right-hander prefers to face live hitters between starts rather than throw a traditional mound session in the afternoon as more starters do.

“He said it helps him really bear down and compete,” Martinez said. “So we asked him yesterday if that’s what he wanted to do, and he said yes, 100 percent. So he went out there and didn’t throw that many pitches, so he’s ready to go Tuesday.”

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