No changes planned yet, but Nats watching young starters' innings

LOS ANGELES – There will probably come a point later this summer when the Nationals have to find creative ways to reduce the workload of their young starting pitchers. That time, though, has not come yet.

MacKenzie Gore (ostensibly a rookie even though he no longer qualifies) and Jake Irvin (a true rookie) each have been taking every turn in the rotation and have shown no physical ill effects of it. But given their youth and inexperience, the Nats do plan to restrict their workload sometime later this year.

The club did that with Josiah Gray last season; the right-hander never went on the injured list, but he was limited to 28 starts and 148 2/3 innings. On a few occasions, he was skipped over one time through the rotation or given extra rest when the team had an off-day.

Manager Davey Martinez has suggested a similar tact with Gore, who has never thrown more than 101 innings in a professional season, and last year totaled 87 with the Padres and in four minor league rehab starts for the Nats.

Irvin did get up to 128 1/3 innings in Single-A in 2019 but then had Tommy John surgery and didn’t return healthy until 2022, when he pitched 103 1/3 innings at Single-A and Double-A.

The Nationals’ upcoming schedule – they’re off Thursday and then again Monday – does offer an opportunity to fiddle with the rotation, but Martinez said the plan for now is to keep everyone in the same order, giving everyone the chance to get an extra day of rest.

The Nats’ announced rotation plan for this weekend’s series against the Phillies: Gray in Friday’s opener, Gore on Saturday and Trevor Williams in Sunday’s finale. Barring any changes, Irvin would then start Tuesday against the Diamondbacks on two extra days’ rest, with Patrick Corbin getting the same extra rest before taking the mound Wednesday.

“Right now, we’re keeping everything the same,” Martinez said. “We’re going to get through today. I’ll talk to (pitching coach Jim) Hickey probably on the plane a little bit on the way home, but I like the way the rotation is now. We get a couple extra days off. They all seem to be doing well, so we’ll probably keep it the same.”

Gore has been the Nationals’ most dominant starter to date, if inconsistent. The lefty has recorded nine or more strikeouts in three of his 11 starts, including a career-high 11 on Sunday in Kansas City.

Irvin turned some heads in his first two career starts, including 6 1/3 scoreless innings in San Francisco, but has struggled since, going 0-3 with an 8.82 ERA his last four appearances.

“They’re both doing well. They’re both on track,” Martinez said. “We’re looking at a lot of different measurements in their outings. Right now, they’re good. But there’s going to come a point in time later on in the season when we need to start paying attention to the innings.”

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