MIAMI – The Nationals are getting closer to activating Chad Kuhl off the 15–day injured list while he continues his recovery from right foot metatarsalgia. Though they still have time to decide, the question is now becoming: How will they adjust the pitching staff when he’s finally ready to return?
Kuhl is eligible to come off the IL now, having been placed back on May 1 but retroactive to April 30. His biggest step in his rehab was throwing 65 pitches over four innings in a simulated game yesterday afternoon and reporting that he felt great today.
“Chad came out of his simulated game feeling good,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame session with the media ahead of tonight’s opener against the Marlins. “So we're gonna reevaluate and see what the next step would be for him.”
The right-hander, who was only in the Nats rotation because of Cade Cavalli’s Tommy John surgery coming out of spring training, is 0-2 with a 9.41 ERA and 1.955 WHIP over five starts this season. The Nationals have only won one of the games started by him, and that was largely thanks to the 10 runs they scored while he pitched just 3 ⅔ innings on April 22 in Minnesota.
The Nationals are still evaluating the situation and how they’ll move forward with him and the rotation.
“We're gonna sit down and reevaluate,” Martinez said of the next steps with Kuhl. “I don't know if we want to get him in a rehab assignment, or we'll see what happens in the next few days. Maybe do something where we can get him here. But we got some options, so I'm gonna sit down with (general manager Mike Rizzo), (pitching coach Jim Hickey), and we'll talk about what we want to do with him next.”
Jake Irvin has made three starts in Kuhl’s place. The 26-year-old righty is 1-1 with a 4.11 ERA and 1.304 WHIP, with the Nats winning his first two major league outings. But despite the rookie’s success, he might be the odd man out when the veteran returns.
“Jake's done well. I want to continue to get him an opportunity,” Martinez said. “We've got to be really careful with some of our young guys. I mean, the innings are gonna build up on these guys. So there's gonna come a point in time where we really got to step back and (decide) whether we do a six-man rotation or skip some starts or something like that. Right now we're in pretty good shape. These guys all feel good. But we definitely got to keep an eye on how many innings these guys are eating up.”
The Nationals are in the middle of a stretch where they’ll play (or at least start, counting Saturday’s suspended game) 18 games in 19 days, meaning they’re going to need their starters every five days. But Kuhl’s return, Irvin’s success and the desire to closely monitor their young pitchers’ innings could give the team a path to a six-man rotation.
It may not be their first choice, but they’re at least considering it.
“We'll weigh a lot of options,” the skipper said. “Like I said, right now, these guys are all feeling really good and they're pitching well. And we want to keep developing them that way. So right now, there's no real urgency to go to a six-man rotation. But there will be some talks about maybe doing that down the road. And like I said, or maybe even do something different. So we'll definitely … it's always in the back of my mind because I want to make sure I take care of these young guys.”
While they consider that option, we know for sure Irvin is sticking around for now. No matter how Kuhl progresses, the young righty will make his next start with the Nationals, now in line for Friday’s opener against the Tigers.
“Jake will definitely make his next start up here,” confirmed Martinez.
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