Martinez on Robles, Doolittle and La Sorsa

ATLANTA – Before their finale against the Diamondbacks was postponed due to poor air quality yesterday, the Nationals announced they were sending Victor Robles to Triple-A Rochester on a rehab assignment.

Robles has been sidelined since he hurt his back by sliding into second base in Arizona on May 6. Up until recently, he had been very limited in what rehab work he could actually do. But has he started to improve, he was able to do more and more physical activity and is now ready to play in games.

“Victor will play tonight in Rochester and we'll see how he gets through it,” manager Davey Martinez said during his media session before tonight’s series opener against the Braves. “He'll probably get maybe four, maybe five innings. So we'll see how he gets through it.”

Robles is hitting third and playing center field for the Red Wings tonight in Worcester.

Needing a bounceback season, the 26-year-old was off to a solid start to the season before his injury. In 31 games, he was hitting .292 with a .388 on-base percentage and .748 OPS. He scored 13 runs, hit four doubles, one triple and eight RBIs and stole a team-high eight bases while walking at the highest rate of his career (9.4 percent).

Because Robles does so many things on the field, the Nats want to make sure he can do all of them before making the call that he’s ready to return to the big leagues.

“For him, he's so athletic and he does so many different things that we want to see him play just baseball and get ready,” Martinez said. “Run. I want to see him steal some bases down there. Most importantly is get his at-bats and get ready. He was doing so well before he got hurt, offensively. So we want to get him back going and make sure that he's healthy.”

Robles will work his way up to a couple of full nine-inning games, but he’ll also get some rest in between to be extra cautious with his back.

“I'd like to see him play a few games at nine innings before we determine whether he's right or not,” Martinez said. “He'll rest in between. It was a back injury, so I want to make sure he gets rest in between. Which means that he'll come in and get treatment, work out, do all baseball activity but not have to play in the game. And then he'll come back the next day and play.”

Sean Doolittle continues to work back from last summer’s elbow surgery at the minor league level. Now officially off a minor league rehab assignment and now just an everyday minor leaguer, the left-hander pitched back-to-back days at High-A Wilmington last week, gave up two runs in one inning with Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday and pitched a scoreless 1 ⅓ innings last night.

“He's feeling better,” Martinez said of Doolittle. “Like I said, for me, it's about the back-to-back days. We're definitely keeping an eye on him. He's done well. He's getting closer, which is good. So we're just going to continue to monitor him and get him built up.”

Doolittle no longer is the only lefty in the minors the Nationals are keeping their eyes on. Yesterday afternoon they claimed left-hander Joe La Sorsa off waivers from the Rays.

The 25-year-old made his major league debut last week, and allowed just one run and three hits in 4 1/3 innings over two relief appearances. A roster crunch in Tampa Bay led to La Sorsa getting designated for assignment, allowing the Nats to claim him.

“He's a left-handed funky pitcher,” Martinez said. “So we could use all the left-handers we can get right now. But it'd be nice. He's gonna start off down in Rochester and then we'll get him acclimated and we'll see how he does.”

La Sorsa brings solid numbers as a lefty to Rochester’s bullpen: He went 2–1 with a 3.38 ERA in 11 games (three starts) between Double-A and Triple-A in the Rays system. Left-handed batters went 7-for-32 (.219) with a double, two walks and eight strikeouts against him.

“We saw just brief outings,” Martinez said. “What I've seen of him, he's got good stuff. It's not overpowering, but he knows how to pitch, and we love that. So we're gonna get him down there. Like I said, get him acclimated. It's a new team. So hopefully he starts off well, and then we'll see what happens here in the near future.”

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