Martin called up from Syracuse to bolster bullpen for now

The Nationals called up right-hander Rafael Martin from Triple-A Syracuse, giving themselves another reliever for tonight's series opener against the Mets but still leaving the question of Tuesday night's starter unanswered for now.

Martin becomes the eighth member of the Nationals bullpen, but his stay in D.C. could be brief. Unless the club intends to use long reliever Yusmeiro Petit as Stephen Strasburg's replacement in the rotation - and manager Dusty Baker said Sunday in Milwaukee that was not the plan - another starter will have to be called up from the minors for Tuesday's game. Syracuse right-hander Austin Voth and Double-A Harrisburg right-hander Lucas Giolito (one of the top pitching prospects in baseball) remain the most likely candidates.

martin-pitching-42-sidebar.jpgFor now, the Nationals chose to go with an extra reliever. Martin was the only healthy pitcher already on the organization's 40-man roster, so the 32-year-old was promoted almost by default despite his 4.40 ERA in 29 games at Syracuse.

Martin also has big league experience, with a 5.11 ERA in 13 games for the Nationals last season.

Even if Martin's stint lasts only one day, the Nationals still figure to have another bullpen decision to make soon with Jonathan Papelbon nearly ready to return from the disabled list. Papelbon, out since June 13 with a strained right ribcage muscle, is scheduled to make his first rehab appearance for high Single-A Potomac tonight, suggesting he may be ready to rejoin the the big league roster in a matter of days.

Game 77 lineups: Nats vs. Mets
Nationals recall right-hander Rafael Martin

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