Pitching plans laid out for Thursday's doubleheader

The past few days have not been easy on Nationals manager Davey Martinez and pitching coach Jim Hickey. A suspended game Tuesday night then a postponement last night has led to today's doubleheader against the Mets at Citi Field, while also throwing the Nats' pitching plans into chaos.

Good thing they're in the city that never sleeps.

After a confusing 40 hours or so, Martinez was able to lay out his pitching plans for today's two games: Sean Nolin will start the opener and Erick Fedde will start the second game, with Tanner Rainey serving as the 27th man for both.

How did we get here?

Well, Nolin had his contract selected from Triple-A Rochester ahead of yesterday's scheduled pseudo-doubleheader, anticipating making his first major league appearance since 2015 in either game. Andres Machado was announced as the starter for last night's nightcap and Fedde was scheduled to start today's series finale.

But after last night's postponement, it was decided that Nolin and Machado will switch places.

"We're gonna start Sean Nolin," Martinez said in his pregame Zoom session with reporters. "With the seven-inning game, we'll see how far we can take him. The bullpen's gonna be available and then we've got Fedde for the second game.

"He's been stretched out. He's been starting for us in Triple-A. He's done well, so just gotta let him go, keep an eye on him and see how far he can take us."

After he bounced around the minor leagues, independent ball and Japan before signing a minor league deal with the Nationals in March, what was the message to the left-hander ahead of his return to the big leagues?

Thumbnail image for Martinez-Serious-Hoodie-WS-G4-Sidebar.jpg"I talked to him a little bit about it yesterday," Martinez said. "He's worked hard to get back up to the big leagues. Now he gets another opportunity, so good for him. Here's a guy who also was in Japan, pitched well in Japan before we got him. So I'm looking forward to watching him go out there and compete and pitch the way he's been pitching. Like I said, he's kept Rochester in a lot of games and has done well with them, so hopefully he can do that today."

Nolin figures to have a lot of support in the crowd at Citi Field while making his long-awaited return, as he's a New York native.

"He's from the New York area, Long Island. So I know he's got family here and stuff," Martinez said. "So just go out there and continue to do what he was doing down at Rochester. I know he's a strike-thrower, he's got a mix of four pitches. So just go out there and compete."

Martinez is planning on utilizing anyone who is needed out of the bullpen during the first game in anticipation of pushing Fedde as far as he can go in the nightcap.

"Yeah we can stretch him," Martinez said of his Game 2 starter. "As you know, Erick starts, so we can let him pitch as long as we need him to pitch. The thought process was to try to get through the first game. Like I said, if we can save some guys for the second game, we will. But hopefully, Erick can give us five or six innings in the second game."

As for Machado, he moves back to the bullpen, where he will rejoin Jefry Rodriguez as a long-arm option. Machado has made all of his big league appearances as a reliever, including 12 this year with the Nationals while covering 11 innings and allowing four runs. But Martinez is still prepared to stretch out the 28-year-old right-hander a little further if he needs to today.

"I know he's thrown up to 44 pitches in Rochester," Martinez said of Machado. "This kid's very durable and he loves to pitch. So for me, it would be two-plus innings if we had to. It's nice, though, (that) today we're gonna get Sean in there to start the game and we have Machado, we have Jefry. If we need them both, they can give us multiple innings."

And for the sake of some extra insurance, Rainey is back in there ready to pitch in any capacity.

"We wanted to bring Rainey up and utilize him, especially today with the two games. So he'll be ready for either game or maybe both," Martinez said.

While Paolo Espino only threw 14 pitches in Tuesday's suspended game, Martinez would really love to avoid using his "secret weapon" at all today and have him extra rested for his next start. Even though the veteran right-hander came into the clubhouse this morning ready to pitch.

"I want to try to stay away from, if I can, Espino, even though he said he's good to pitch today. But he's gonna start in a few days, so I want to stay away from him if I can.

"He wanted to pitch today. He wanted to start the game yesterday. And I told him absolutely not," Martinez said with a laugh.

If that seems like a lot just to cover 14 innings in one day, it is. And that's as far as the Nationals know for now. Josiah Gray is lined up to start tomorrow's homestand opener against the Braves and Espino, as long as he's not needed today, figures to start one of this weekend's games as well. But Patrick Corbin will be on full rest to start tomorrow, too, and Martinez wants to be extra cautious with his rookie right-hander.

"We haven't decided that yet," Martinez said about Gray possibly starting tomorrow. "He's actually ready, but we'll see. I'm gonna talk to Hickey, talk to JoJo. Like I said, we've been keeping a very close eye on Josiah and we want to keep building him up. So I'm gonna talk to Hickey this morning and then we'll line up our rotation for the next three days."

Martinez and the Nats have to get through today's games first. And as we've seen a lot this season, nothing really ever goes according to plan.

Nats go quietly in opening loss to Mets (updated)
Game 114 lineups: Nats at Mets (Nolin starting)

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