Kuhl goes on IL with foot injury, Abbott called up

The Nationals placed Chad Kuhl on the 15-day injured list with an injury to his right foot and recalled Cory Abbott from Triple-A Rochester to take his spot on the active roster and potentially his spot in the rotation.

Kuhl hurt himself during Saturday night’s game while delivering a pitch, stepping into the divot on the mound created by Pirates pitcher Vince Velásquez and causing a shooting pain in his big toe. Manager Davey Martinez and director of athletic training Paul Lessard came out from the dugout to check on him, but Kuhl threw one warm-up pitch and said he was fine to continue.

He wound up being removed in the fourth inning, having thrown 100 pitches while getting roughed up for eight runs on seven hits and four walks in what wound up a 16-1 blowout loss.

“It’s one of those things where I was like: I tore my elbow (in 2018) and finished the inning. I’m not going to let my toe derail the start and have me only go two innings,” he said. “It’s something you just try to fight through. It ended up not working out too great for me anyway, but I did my best to keep getting outs. It’s just unfortunate.”

Kuhl’s toe was still bothering him Sunday, so he was examined by doctors, who diagnosed with him with metatarsalgia (pain in the ball of the foot), leading to this IL stint.

Thrust into the No. 5 starter’s job out of spring training after top prospect Cade Cavalli needed Tommy John surgery, Kuhl has struggled through his first five starts of the season. He’s 0-2 with a 9.41 ERA and 1.955 WHIP and may have faced an uncertain future even without this injury. Now he’ll get treatment and hope to resume throwing as soon as possible, taking the opportunity to work on his mechanics.

The Nationals already knew they needed a spot starter for Wednesday’s game against the Cubs (a byproduct of Saturday’s doubleheader), and Abbott was already lined up for that day after striking out 12 batters during 5 2/3 innings of one-hit ball Friday night for Rochester.

The 27-year-old right-hander, however, isn’t necessarily guaranteed to make that start. Manager Davey Martinez said he’ll be available for relief duty the next two nights in case there’s a need. If not, he would be on track to start Wednesday.

“Look, if we need Cory in the bullpen the next two days, he’s going to pitch, and then we’ll have to do something else,” Martinez said. “It’s still TBD.”

Abbott, who went 0-5 with a 5.25 ERA in 16 games (nine starts) for the Nationals last season, entered Friday’s start with an 8.50 ERA and 1.611 WHIP. Though he was obviously pleased with his improved results in his most recent start, he also wasn’t fully satisfied for one particular reason.

“I didn’t get six innings,” he said. “I told you guys: Six innings is my mark. It was not what I wanted to be. My goal isn’t to strike out people. It’s always six innings.”

Once they get through Wednesday’s game, the Nationals’ rotation will be back in order. Patrick Corbin is scheduled to start Thursday’s series finale against the Cubs. Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore and Trevor Williams could then pitch this weekend at Arizona on normal rest. The fifth starter’s spot would come up again Monday in San Francisco.

Gore roughed up early in loss to Cubs (updated)
Abbott recalled as Kuhl goes to IL

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