Needing fresh arms to get them through today’s first-half finale, the Nationals called up Cory Abbott from Triple-A and optioned Hunter Harvey to Rochester.
Abbott, who has been a starter in the minors, is available to pitch multiple innings in relief this afternoon, which is already a bullpen game. Erasmo Ramirez will start, going two or three innings before manager Davey Martinez begins summoning a parade of other relievers the rest of the game.
Harvey’s demotion has less to do with performance and more to do with the fact he still has options and his recent lengthy stint on the injured list with a pronator strain in his forearm. The right-hander gave up two runs while throwing 28 pitches during Saturday’s loss to the Braves, the first time he’s been scored upon in seven big league appearances this season (sandwiched around the IL stint).
“He’s been a guy that’s been injured,” Martinez said. “He’s got four days off (the All-Star break) down there coming up. We’re just going to give him a little breather and get him back. We want him to pitch multiple innings, work on his breaking ball a little bit more, and then we’ll get him back up here as soon as we can.”
The Nationals found themselves in this predicament due to Tuesday’s rainout against the Mariners. That created a doubleheader Wednesday, and thus a stretch of six games in five days to close out the season’s first half.
Needing a fill-in starter today, the Nats could have activated Josh Rogers off the 15-day IL but decided to have him make another rehab start for Rochester. Unfortunately, the left-hander won’t actually be starting today for the Red Wings after all because his flight there was canceled, the team announced.
So the Nationals elected to go with a bullpen game, hoping to snap their nine-game losing streak to a Braves team that also has nine straight wins over them.
Ramirez will be first up, making his 32nd appearance of the season, his second start. He also started June 13 against the Braves after the club decided not to stick with Josiah Gray following a long rain delay, giving up six runs in three innings, including three homers.
Everyone in the Nationals bullpen should be available as well, with Andres Machado, Steve Cishek and Jordan Weems each having thrown 13 or fewer pitches Saturday. Kyle Finnegan, Carl Edwards Jr. and Abbott all are fresh, as is Tyler Clippard. Clippard was warming up to pitch Saturday before his left leg cramped, forcing Weems into the game instead. But Clippard is feeling fine today and is available if needed.
Meanwhile, Nelson Cruz is out of the lineup for the second straight day with a tight quadriceps muscle. The 42-year-old hurt himself during Friday night’s game. With the All-Star break coming up, the Nationals didn’t feel any reason to rush him back this weekend.
“We’re hoping that after the break, he can get back to DH,” Martinez said. “He’s going to try to be available today to pinch-hit if we need him.”