The Nationals made another change to their ever-changing bullpen today, adding recently acquired left-hander Robert Garcia to the mix and optioning right-hander Hobie Harris to Triple-A Rochester.
Garcia was just claimed off waivers from the Marlins on Tuesday, a lower-profile transaction on trade deadline day that nevertheless could have some short-term impact for a Nats club that has been desperately trying to find quality lefties for its bullpen all season.
Garcia, 27, made his major league for Miami last month, pitching one-third of a scoreless inning against the Orioles, after posting a 2.85 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 41 innings for Triple-A Jacksonville. He wound up getting caught up in a roster crunch as the surprising Marlins became buyers at the trade deadline, and the Nats jumped in and claimed him.
“Terrific Triple-A season so far,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “A lefty that has two good pitches and has shown a propensity to strike guys out. Tough left-on-left. And a guy we think will add to a deficiency of our minor league system.”
Originally a 15th round pick of the Royals in 2017, Garcia becomes the third left-hander in a Nationals bullpen that for much of this season had none. Whether he, Jose A. Ferrer or Joe La Sorsa sticks remains to be seen, but there’s been a concerted effort to try to address that obvious area of need.
“I want to get to see him pitch,” manager Davey Martinez said. “Why not do it here? I heard his makeup’s good, his stuff is good. So we want to start getting him adjusted to what we do up here and see what he’s got.”
When he debuts, Garcia will be the Nationals’ 18th different reliever used this season, a total that doesn’t include position players Lane Thomas and Ildemaro Vargas’ solo appearances in blowouts. Only Kyle Finnegan and Mason Thompson have been part of the active roster since Opening Day.
Martinez has been trying some less-experienced arms in situations of consequence, with mixed results. Jordan Weems (3.10 ERA, 1.103 WHIP) has taken well to the role, but rookies Amos Willingham (9.00 ERA, 1.917 WHIP), Ferrer (5.56 ERA, 1.765 WHIP) and La Sorsa (6.75 ERA, 1.500 WHIP) have been erratic from outing to outing.
“I like that they are getting better,” Martinez said. “The high-leverage stuff, we need to continue to work on with some of these guys. Throwing strike one. The key for us is the walks, especially leadoff walks. We’ve got to clean that up. … But for the most part, when they come in and they’re pounding the strike zone and using their fastball in and out, they’re doing well.”
Harris made just one appearance in this brief stint in the big leagues, tossing a scoreless inning Tuesday night. The right-hander was called up from Rochester on Monday to take the spot that opened when Trevor Williams went on bereavement leave.
Williams’ next turn in the rotation comes Saturday in Cincinnati, but the Nationals haven’t formally named him their starter for that game yet. Once he does return, the team will need to remove another pitcher from the active roster.