After the Nationals wrap up a 10-game homestand with today’s afternoon finale against the Marlins, they will board a plane to embark on a nine-game road trip out west.
First stop: San Francisco, to face a familiar foe in the Giants.
The Giants just swept a three-game series in D.C. last weekend, so the Nats will look to start their three-city road trip with some revenge by the Bay.
Manager Davey Martinez announced this morning he will be sticking with his regular rotation from the past week to lead his club on the mound this weekend, with Aaron Sanchez, Joan Adon and Josiah Gray scheduled to start the three games against the Giants.
As Martinez mentioned last week, Sanchez will get another chance to start after making his Nationals debut Saturday, also against the Giants, in which he gave up four runs and six hits over 4 1/3 innings. While that line doesn’t jump off the page, Sanchez did retire nine straight between the second and fourth innings.
“We'll see what happens over the next few games,” Martinez said in his pregame session with the media. “But like I said, I thought Aaron threw the ball well the other day. I want to give him another chance to go out there and start and see where he's at.”
The Nationals are currently working with somewhat of a six-man rotation, with Patrick Corbin (who starts this afternoon), Sanchez, Adon, Gray, Erick Fedde and Josh Rogers.
The odd-man out, for now at least, seems to be Rogers. After making three starts to begin the season (in which he went 1-3 with a 5.14 ERA), the left-hander’s last outing came out of the bullpen against the Giants on Sunday. He allowed one hit and recorded two outs to close out the fifth inning in his first relief appearance with the Nationals. Although he can still be used as a starter, Rogers’ manager likes his current reliever role.
“You know, Josh Rogers, who I haven't forgotten about, but I like the fact that he can come out of the bullpen as a left-handed pitcher and give us length, too, just as (Paolo) Espino does right-handed,” Martinez said. “And we talked to him about it, (pitching coach Jim) Hickey and I, and as you know, Josh was up for anything. He told me he can close games if we need him to, so we'll see.”
Rogers, who has been open to any role the Nationals see fit for him, probably won’t be closing out games any time soon. But with the upcoming roster crunch next week and some scheduled off-days, he might be best off proving his worth as a long reliever and flex starter.
Starting on Monday, major league roster sizes will decrease from the expanded 28 players to the standard 26 players. The 28-man roster was put in place for the first month of the season to help compensate for a shorter spring training. To soften the blow of losing two players while starting pitchers continue to build up arm strength, Major League Baseball announced this week that teams can keep up to 14 pitchers for the next month, instead of the previously agreed upon 13.
So even though roster sizes are getting smaller, the Nationals will be able to hold onto an extra pitcher if they wish.
Also helping out the rotation over the next few weeks are scheduled off-days. The Nationals started the season with 18 scheduled games in 18 days, but they benefited from an off-day on April 18 due to a rainout against the Diamondbacks.
Beginning with Monday’s day off before the start of this Marlins series, the Nationals will welcome a scheduled off-day in each of the next four weeks. This will allow Martinez to give his starters some extra rest and play around with the rotation if needed.
“Yeah, the off-days are gonna definitely help,” Martinez said with almost a sigh of relief. “I mean, that was as long a stretch I've ever been through, to start a season without an off-day.”
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