Gray getting extra rest before next start, Abrams sits with sore knee

The Nationals will give Josiah Gray three extra days of rest before he makes his next start, hoping the time off gives the struggling right-hander a chance to catch his breath and still finish a once-promising season strong.

Gray has totaled only six innings in his last two starts, allowing seven total runs while walking eight batters and throwing 149 pitches in the process. His next turn in the rotation would have come Monday in the Nats’ series opener at the Pirates, but he now will wait until Thursday’s finale at PNC Park to take the mound.

That start will be 11 days removed from his previous outing, so this will be the equivalent of having an entire turn skipped in the rotation.

“As we all know, he’s our All-Star,” manager Davey Martinez said. “And while he’s been struggling a little bit of late, I just want to give him a little break.”

Gray was named an All-Star for the first time in his career, back when he sported a 3.00 ERA through his first 13 starts of the season. But in 14 starts since, his ERA has been a hefty 5.30, and over 69 2/3 innings he has issued 38 walks while serving up 11 homers.

The Nationals were mindful of Gray’s workload last season, his first full year in the majors, and held him to 28 starts and 148 2/3 innings. He’s currently at 27 starts and 141 2/3 innings, and the plan remains to get him through the end of the month to raise those totals.

“I don’t want to shut him down,” Martinez said. “Last year, we wanted to keep him on schedule to throw about (150) innings.”

With Gray pushed back to Thursday, the Nats will start Patrick Corbin on Monday and Joan Adon on Tuesday. They have not named a starter yet for Wednesday, which would’ve been MacKenzie Gore’s spot before he landed on the 15-day injured list with a blister on his left middle finger.

Martinez said he likely won’t name Gore’s replacement until Tuesday, but there are signs it could be 2019 first-round pick Jackson Rutledge. The 24-year-old right-hander was scratched from his scheduled start for Triple-A Rochester on Friday, and the organization has been hoping to see him make his major league debut before season’s end.

* CJ Abrams is not in today’s starting lineup after banging his knee on a slide during Saturday night’s 11-inning win. Ildemaro Vargas is starting at shortstop instead, but Abrams’ ailment is not believed to be serious.

“He slid yesterday, bumped his knee, said he was a little sore,” Martinez said. “So, just wanted to give him a day and get some treatment. He’ll be available to come into the game today if we need him.”

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