Pregame notes before series finale in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI – It’s a lovely Sunday in The Queen City as the Nationals look to win this four-game series against the hosting Reds.

With the early game today, a flight to catch tonight and an off-day tomorrow before a series against the Marlins in Miami gets underway Tuesday night, there wasn’t a whole lot of news coming out of the Nats clubhouse this morning. So let’s go through some notes before we get underway one last time in Cincinnati …

* Here’s your daily non-update Stephen Strasburg update: He did some work in the visitors' bullpen at Great American Ball Park this morning as part of his routine while recovering from last summer’s thoracic outlet surgery and Friday’s rehab start with Triple-A Rochester, in which he pitched six shutout innings on 83 pitches. Pitching coach Jim Hickey and others were working with Strasburg.

Although things seem to be going well for the veteran right-hander and his season debut should be coming soon, manager Davey Martinez isn’t ready to commit to anything until Strasburg goes through his bullpen session tomorrow with the team in Miami.

“He's had a routine that he does in between starts, so he's just doing his routine,” Martinez said of Strasburg’s work this morning during his pregame media session. “And he's gonna throw a bullpen here in the next day. We'll see where he's at and we'll have a conversation after the bullpen. But so far, everything looks good. I don't want to make any decisions yet 'til he throws his bullpen and we go from there.”

Strasburg has only pitched 26 2/3 innings over seven starts since being named 2019 World Series MVP. So the Nationals are still being extra cautious with their ace.

If his bullpen goes well Monday in Miami, expect a more newsworthy update Tuesday. Mark Zuckerman will have coverage from loanDepot Park this week.

* Speaking of this week in Miami, Martinez also isn’t ready to commit to a rotation for the upcoming three games against the Marlins. He did say Josiah Gray will probably start one game and Evan Lee, still available out of the bullpen today, could make his second major league start this week if he’s not needed as a reliever.

A lot will depend on Strasburg’s progress. If the Nationals think he’s ready for his debut this week, the rotation will be shuffled around. The off-day Monday helps with that, allowing everyone to be on normal or extra rest.

“I'm gonna sit down and talk to Hickey after we meet and try to go over our rotation,” Martinez said. “So we'll see. We still got Evan here. We're going to try to use him out of the bullpen, but it hasn't worked out. So he's available to start as well. Josiah, I think, we'll start one of those games. We haven't decided when. But I'll know more probably after the game.”

* Alcides Escobar landed on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain Wednesday, with Luis García replacing him from Rochester.

Escobar has been working on the field before each game in Cincinnati and continues to go through his treatment. As always with hamstring injuries, the Nationals are being careful.

“He's feeling a lot better. He's recovering,” Martinez said of Escobar. “Those hamstrings, as we all know, when you get a little strain like that, they're a bit tricky, especially with the position that he plays. But he's recovering well. He's doing a lot of strengthening right now. He was able to swing the bat a little bit the other day, which is kind of nice. So we'll see how he feels this week.” 

* Dee Strange-Gordon is still enjoying time with his family after the birth of his second child, Dash, Friday morning. The Nationals placed the veteran on the paternity list and recalled Lucius Fox from Rochester that afternoon.

Martinez was happy to report baby Dash, mom Jojo and the whole Strange-Gordon family are doing well. The manager told his super-utility player to enjoy time with his family on the off-day and meet the team in Miami on Tuesday.

“He's doing well, yeah,” Martinez said. “And he's gonna meet us in Miami. We have the day off tomorrow, so I told him to just stay at home and meet us Tuesday. But the family's doing good, baby's good, mommy's good, so everything's good.”

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