The Nationals have made their decision on Chad Kuhl. He was officially reinstated from the 15-day injured list, while Hobie Harris was optioned to Triple-A Rochester.
Kuhl had been on the IL with a right foot issue since April 30 and threw 65 pitches over four simulated innings Monday. He played catch yesterday before the Nats made their final decision on the roster move.
The other intriguing part of his return is that the Nationals plan to utilize him out of the bullpen. That is so they can both monitor his innings while he provides length in the ‘pen and keep Jake Irvin in the rotation.
“It gives us length in the bullpen, which will be nice,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame media session. “But he's just coming back, so I want to make sure, as we do this, that he probably gets clean innings. But he definitely gives us multiple innings if we need. The last sim game, he threw the ball exceptionally well. He was up in the mid-90s with his fastball, was throwing strikes. Slider was really, really good. So that was encouraging. So we'll get him in the bullpen and get him going. And then we'll see where it takes us.”
Other options included having him go on a minor league rehab assignment to build up his pitch count more. The Nats also could have kept him here to pitch another sim game. Or they could have activated him back into the rotation and optioned Irvin back to Rochester.
They ultimately decided to keep Kuhl and Irvin, with Harris being the odd man out.
“The thing was maybe to stretch him out a little bit,” Martinez said of the possibility of sending Kuhl out on a rehab assignment. “Because he was gonna go in the bullpen, we can limit his innings and his pitch count. So we'll build him up that way.”
Prior to being placed on the injured list, Kuhl appeared in five games, going 0-2 with a 9.41 ERA.
As for Irvin, even after last night’s tough outing against the Tigers, in which he gave four earned runs in 2 ⅔ innings, he’s going to continue to get the chance to take the ball at the major league level. The Nats want to continue to give their No. 19 prospect an extended look.
“We definitely want to give Jake a longer look,” Martinez said. “Like I said, Jake, to me, has a lot of upside. And I think he's only scratching the surface right now. But his stuff is good, his stuff is real good. Like I said yesterday, just uncharacteristic. Just his breaking ball, he couldn't throw them for strikes. He was a little erratic with his fastball. So we'll get him back honed in. ... We saw some videos and we talked to him about a couple of little things and then get him back out there.”
Harris goes to the minors after allowing one run in 2 ⅓ innings while throwing 39 pitches (29 for strikes) last night. He has posted a 5.40 ERA in 15 games out of the bullpen in his first big league season.
“He threw a lot yesterday,” Martinez said. “He's gonna go down there and work on his fastball command a little bit. But I like his mix of pitches. I liked the way he handled himself. Great clubhouse guy. So I don't think it'll be the last time you see Hobie be around.”
* I have to give a shout-out to my high school alma mater Gonzaga College High School and fellow alumnus Caleb Williams, who is throwing out the first pitch before today’s game against the Tigers. He is the quarterback for the University of Southern California football team and won the Heisman Trophy as this past season’s best college football player, becoming the first player from the D.C. area to win the prestigious award.
Williams graduated from Gonzaga in 2021 and is known locally for throwing the game-winning Hail Mary touchdown pass in the 2018 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference Championship Game against rival DeMatha Catholic High School. He started his college career at the University of Oklahoma before transferring and following head coach Lincoln Riley to USC.
Congrats, Caleb! And hail Gonzaga!
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