BALTIMORE – Time is running out, but there’s still a chance Tanner Rainey pitches for the Nationals before season’s end.
Rainey, who has spent the year rehabbing from last summer’s Tommy John surgery, traveled with the team for this week’s final road trip and could be activated off the 60-day injured list either Wednesday here in Baltimore or Friday in Atlanta.
“I’m trying to think of ways to get him on the roster,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We might have to do that.”
Rainey already spent a month on a minor league rehab assignment, totaling 12 innings for three different affiliates. Though his surgically repaired elbow felt strong at the end of that stretch, he still wasn’t satisfied with his mechanics and consistency from outing to outing, so the Nationals brought him to D.C. to throw a bullpen session and then a simulated game last week.
Martinez has talked for months about the value in having Rainey pitch in the majors this season, even if it’s only one or two appearances, to give him peace of mind heading into the winter. The Nationals envision the 30-year-old right-hander playing a significant role in the back end of a 2024 bullpen that will also return Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey.
In order to activate Rainey, the team would need to remove somebody else from the active roster. Martinez believes there are other relievers who could use the breather after a long season.
“Some of our bullpen guys are hanging on by a thread here,” the manager said. “We might activate him in Atlanta, or even tomorrow if we need him. I want him to stay with us. He’s going to throw a bullpen again today, and then we’ll see where we’re at.”
Asked which relievers in particular he was worried about, Martinez mentioned Finnegan (who has made 65 appearances and has a 9.35 ERA in September), Harvey (55 appearances while missing time with an injury) and Jordan Weems (48 major league appearances, plus another 22 in the minors).
“I’ve been talking to those guys,” Martinez said. “They want to finish the season. They’re very adamant about finishing the season. But we’ll see how they feel and how much we need them in the next couple days.”
* The Nationals have a rotation plan in place for the weekend. Martinez said Trevor Williams will start Friday’s series opener against the Braves, with Jackson Rutledge and Joan Adon also finishing things out.
Williams will be returning to the mound after a 12-day break, having struggled in three straight outings prior to that point. The right-hander sported a 4.82 ERA after an Aug. 27 quality start against the Marlins, but that number has skyrocketed to 5.55 since after three starts that never saw him complete five innings.
Rutledge and Adon will round things out, which means tonight is Josiah Gray’s final start of the season. It also means Thaddeus Ward won’t make a big league start after all despite getting built up as a starter during his minor league rehab assignment.
Martinez said the organization decided to use Ward strictly as a reliever down the stretch, then get the Rule 5 draftee work as a starter next month in the Arizona Fall League.