Nats sign top draft picks, place Clippard on IL

PHOENIX – The Nationals signed nine of their top-10 draft picks today, including first rounder Elijah Green, who should immediately be classified as one of the top prospects in an organization still trying to stockpile more young talent.

Green, the fifth overall selection in Sunday’s first round, represents the highest draft pick the Nationals have had since they took Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper No. 1 overall in back-to-back years in 2009-10, not to mention their first top-10 selection since Anthony Rendon went sixth in 2011.

Terms of Green’s deal weren’t immediately known, but the expected value of the signing bonus for the No. 5 pick was $6.49 million. The 18-year-old outfielder had committed to play next spring at the University of Miami, but as expected he’ll immediately become a professional and begin his trek up through the minor leagues.

Green, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound center fielder with right-handed power and a strong arm, was drafted out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The son of former NFL tight end Eric Green, he was described by Nationals vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline as a player who “could be an impactful superstar” if he develops as hoped.

Green will be at Nationals Park on July 29 to be introduced to the crowd before the team’s next home game.

Others who signed today include second-round pick Jake Bennett, a left-hander from Oklahoma who was both a high school and college rotation mate of the Nats’ current top prospect Cade Cavalli. The team also announced the signings of Trey Lipscomb (third round), Brenner Cox (fourth round), Jared McKenzie (fifth round), Nate Ochoa (sixth round), Chance Huff (eighth round), Maxwell Romero Jr. (ninth round) and Murphy Stehly (10th round).

Their only top-10 draft pick who hasn’t signed yet is Riley Cornelio, their seventh-round pick from TCU.

* The Nationals made several bullpen moves before tonight’s second-half opener against the Diamondbacks, placing Tyler Clippard on the 15-day injured list with a left groin strain, activating Víctor Arano off the IL and recalling Hunter Harvey from Triple-A Rochester.

Clippard ends up sidelined after making only one appearance in his highly anticipated return to the Nats some eight years after he last pitched for them. The 37-year-old threw two scoreless innings July 14 against the Braves, then was warming up to pitch two nights later when his left leg cramped up.

Manager Davey Martinez said Clippard attempted to throw once more since and reported his upper leg was “achy” so the club had him get an MRI, which revealed a minor groin strain. The move is retroactive to July 19 (they can only be backdated up to three days) so the right-hander will be eligible to return Aug. 3.

“I think it could be pretty quick, but we wanted to make sure he’s healed and when he comes back he’s good to go,” Martinez said. “He got an MRI, had a little bit of a strain in his left groin, so we wanted to be careful.”

Arano returns to the active roster after landing on the 15-day IL on June 6 with left knee inflammation. Harvey returns only five days after he was optioned to Triple-A, eligible to come back in fewer than the minimum 10 days because he’s replacing an injured teammate (Clippard). Arano takes the roster spot that was held by Cory Abbott, who was already optioned back to Rochester following Sunday’s first-half finale.

* The Nationals are coming out of the All-Star break with Patrick Corbin, Aníbal Sánchez and Erick Fedde as their first three starters, pushing Josiah Gray to next week’s series in Los Angeles.

Martinez said that was a calculated move as the organization tries to limit Gray’s innings in his first full big league season while still trying to keep him available through September. Gray, whose last start came July 13, will end up getting at least 12 days off before returning to the mound.

The 24-year-old right-hander has already thrown 92 innings in 17 starts. He totaled a career-high 130 innings in 2019 as a minor leaguer with the Dodgers, then totaled 86 1/3 innings last season at Triple-A and the majors.

“We had an opportunity to push him back a little bit, let him get a little bit more of a breather,” Martinez said. “Get him going here in a couple days, let him throw a bullpen. But we’re going to keep a close eye on his innings. He’s already matched what he had last year. He’s doing well, but we want to space it out a little for him. We’ll continue to keep an eye on how much he’s doing, what his workload looks like, and then we’ll go from there.”

The Nationals also officially activated Josh Rogers off the 15-day IL today but immediately optioned him to Triple-A. Rogers, out since June 3 with a left shoulder impingement, started for Rochester tonight and allowed three runs (two earned) in five innings.

* The Nationals have signed a couple of players with major league experience to minor league deals (outfielder David Dahl, right-hander Daniel Ponce de Leon) and assigned them to Rochester’s roster.

Dahl, 28, owns a .272/.319/.463 slash line in 327 career big league games with the Rockies and Rangers. He played 67 games for the Brewers’ Triple-A club this season, batting .294/.357/.468.

“He was swinging the bat really well down at Triple-A, and we kind of like him,” Martinez said. “We liked him in the past. The big thing with him is to keep him healthy. Hopefully he can go down there and swing the bat like he was swinging early on, and we’ll see what happens. You never have enough depth. Signing these guys gives us more depth moving forward.”

Ponce de Leon, 30, has a 4.33 ERA and 1.327 WHIP in 57 games (22 starts) for the Cardinals. He made 16 starts for the Mariners’ Triple-A team this season, going 5-8 with a 7.96 ERA and 1.668 WHIP.

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Game 95 lineups: Nats at Diamondbacks

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