Upon announcing the postponement of Friday night’s series opener against the Pirates, the Nationals had a decision to make about their pitching plans for Saturday’s doubleheader: Would they just have Patrick Corbin and Chad Kuhl start, or would they call up someone else from Triple-A to make a spot start and serve as their designated 27th man for the twinbill?
The club decided to stick with the two current members of the rotation, call up reliever Jordan Weems from Rochester to take that extra roster spot and wait until later in the homestand to find a spot starter.
“We thought about it,” manager Davey Martinez said when asked about the possibility of using a fill-in starter today. “But Weems is throwing the ball well. We have him for two games, which is kind of nice.”
Weems is off to a good start to his season: In his first nine appearances, he owns a 1.93 ERA and 1.071 WHIP, striking out 13 batters in 9 1/3 innings. The 30-year-old pitched in 32 big league games last season, finishing with a 5.22 ERA but strong 1.185 WHIP, hurt in large part by the seven homers he surrendered in only 39 2/3 innings.
“He’s got good stuff,” Martinez said of the right-hander. “The biggest thing with him is just throwing strike one. When he gets ahead, he’s good. He’s got a good mix of pitches. He’s just got to attack the strike zone, throw strike one.”
With Corbin and Kuhl starting today and Josiah Gray on tap for Sunday’s series finale, the Nationals figure to need a fill-in starter at some point during their upcoming series against the Cubs. They could stick with MacKenzie Gore and Trevor Williams to begin that series before they’re finally forced to make a move Wednesday, or they could insert someone else prior to that if they want.
The most logical candidates currently on the 40-man roster would be Joan Adon (4.68 ERA, 1.560 WHIP in five starts for Rochester), Cory Abbott (6.46 ERA, 1.394 WHIP in five starts) and Jake Irvin (5.64 ERA, 1.522 WHIP in five starts). None has pitched consistently well to date, but Abbott just struck out 12 batters while allowing only one hit over 5 2/3 innings Friday night against St. Paul and is lined up to make his next start Wednesday.
“I’m looking ahead to 1:10 today,” Martinez said. “Then we’ll go from there. I’m sure you guys did the math part. We need somebody. But we haven’t talked about that yet.”
Asked if he got a report on Abbott’s dominant start from Friday night, the manager laughed.
“Twelve strikeouts? Sure, I did,” he said. “That was good. Good for him. He’s been struggling. To come out yesterday and do what he did was awesome. Hopefully, he gets on track here and he starts pitching well.”
With more rain in the forecast Sunday, this could all become moot. All things considered, though, Martinez would rather not have to be in a position to have to consider such matters. Even though his tired team got home early Friday after a 4-2 road trip to Minnesota and New York, he wasn’t thrilled by the postponement.
“Playing doubleheaders is never easy,” he said. “We definitely would’ve much rather played yesterday. The morale’s good, we’re upbeat, we’re playing well. Playing yesterday would’ve been good.”