Rainey healthy but still fixing mechanics before returning to Nats

MILWAUKEE – Tanner Rainey’s surgically repaired elbow feels strong. He’s made 12 appearances over the last month on a minor league rehab assignment, including back-to-back scoreless innings for Triple-A Rochester in recent days. He’s now more than 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery.

So why haven’t the Nationals activated the reliever off the 60-day injured list and brought him back to the big leagues yet?

“I talked to Tanner, and he’s still working on some things, mechanically,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s still going to stay down there, still going to pitch, work on some things.”

When Rainey began his rehab assignment in early August, the thinking was that he’d rejoin the major league bullpen sometime in early-to-mid September. And since the right-hander has crossed just about every pertinent item off his rehab checklist, it would seem the time has come.

But while the results have looked good, Rainey still doesn’t feel like he’s all the way back from the ligament replacement surgery he had in August 2022. His elbow feels great, he insists. But his velocity hasn’t yet returned to the upper 90s he used to throw, and he’s had trouble repeating his mechanics from outing to outing.

Martinez said Rainey is likely to come to Washington during next week’s homestand and throw off the bullpen mound in front of the coaching and training staffs. With the Triple-A season ending Sept. 24, there’s not much time left for rehab appearances, so he may just get called up to the majors for the final week of the season if he appears ready for that.

“I don’t want to shut him down,” Martinez said. “I want him to continue pitching. There could be a chance he comes up here and pitches one or two games. We’ll see when that day comes.”

Regardless of how Rainey ends this season, the Nationals view him as a key part of the 2024 bullpen.

“We want him to work out these bugs right now, so that when he’s in spring training, he just focuses on pitching,” Martinez said. “I’m really excited that he’s doing well. He’s able to get there right now every other day. But we want to continue rehabbing him, continue to make him feel comfortable and work on some things so this doesn’t happen again.”

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