Nats will give Gray at least one more start

MIAMI – Despite plenty of consideration over the last few weeks, the Nationals will not shut Josiah Gray down yet, giving the right-hander at least one more start this season.

Gray will pitch Wednesday against the Braves in D.C., the club decided today.

That decision was made both with consideration about the state of Gray’s arm at the end of his first full big league season, as well as the uncertain status of Patrick Corbin, who had to depart his last start in Atlanta after tweaking his back and will miss at least one turn through the rotation as a result.

“One, he’s still strong. He’s still throwing the ball well,” manager Davey Martinez said of Gray. “And two, we don’t know what’s going to happen with Corbin yet. But I like the way he threw the ball (Friday). The big thing is, he threw a lot more changeups; we want to continue to see him develop his changeup. So we’re going to give him another start and go from there.”

Gray had some encouraging moments during Friday night’s loss to the Marlins, in which he went six innings and began to rely more on his emerging sinker and changeup in addition to his slider and curveball, while throwing fewer four-seam fastballs. A potential quality start, though, fell apart during a three-run bottom of the sixth that left the 24-year-old upset at himself afterward.

In 27 total starts this season, Gray has gone 7-10 with a 5.17 ERA and 1.388 WHIP, totaling 142 2/3 innings. Though they’ve been watching his workload throughout the summer, the Nationals are comfortable extending him a bit farther.

“You know what, he deserves it,” Martinez said. “He’s learning. He’s developing. Like I’ve told him before: This has been a process. We’re just going to keep going, see how you’re doing. But ultimately we’re going to have to make a decision on when. We’ll give him one more start and see where we’re at.”

Gray will pitch the finale of a three-game series against the Braves. Cory Abbott will start Monday’s opener, with Paolo Espino to follow on Tuesday.

After that, the Nationals have some decisions to make about the season’s final seven games, including a day-night doubleheader against the Phillies on Saturday. It appears MacKenzie Gore will start one of the doubleheader games, provided his fourth rehab start for Triple-A Rochester on Monday goes well.

It’s possible the club would summon another pitcher from their farm system to make a start before season’s end, much as they did last year with Joan Adon, who made his major league debut on the final day of the season. Asked if there’s anyone else he’d still like to get a look at, Martinez mentioned right-hander Tommy Romero, claimed off waivers from the Rays in late August and current owner of a 3-1 record and 2.50 ERA in five games (two starts) for Rochester.

“He’s a smart pitcher,” Martinez said. “He’s not going to overpower you, but he’s got a good mix of pitches. He’s been competing down there, and they’ve been teaching him some other things as well. He’s another guy that we’ve been keeping our eye on. Whether it’s this year, or whether it’s next year, we’ll see where we’re at with him.”

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