Nationals manager Davey Martinez announced Monday that the club's five-man taxi squad included left-hander Seth Romero, who has never pitched in the major leagues. The 2017 first-round selection out of the University of Houston missed all of the 2019 season as he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery.
It was an interesting choice, showing the Nats have confidence in Romero and his stuff and believe that he is very close to making that next step.
Plus, looking at the structure of the Nats bullpen today, Roenis ElÃas is on the 60-day injured list and Sean Doolittle is struggling with his velocity. That leaves Sam Freeman as the only other southpaw in the 'pen. Martinez said Romero is a serious consideration to be elevated to the active roster if the need arises.
"We could be," Martinez said in a pregame Zoom call from Citi Field. "In this year, anything's possible. He's been throwing the ball well in our camp. We want to see what he does. We know he had Tommy John surgery, so we are trying to build up his innings, but yet here's a kid that has been throwing strikes, that has three really good pitches. He looks fearless. Every time I see him, he's very calm on the mound. So we will see how this all plays out. I like him. If he continues to progress the way he is, he's going to be a big part of our future and it could be soon.
"We look at him as a guy that could possibly come up here if somebody went down or somebody got sick, that could step in and one, throw strikes and two, get big league hitters out. We feel like he's got stuff to get big league hitters out. That's why he is here."
Romero has pitched in two minor league seasons for short-season Single-A Auburn, the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and low SIngle-A Hagerstown, posting a cumulative 0-2 record and 4.37 ERA over 14 starts. He's struck out 69 and walked 16 in 47 1/3 innings.
Another bullpen arm that could be close to returning is right-hander Will Harris, who is on the injured list with a groin injury. Martinez confirmed Harris threw to live hitters today with no problems.
"He threw 17 pitches today," Martinez said. "Looked really good. Moving forward, we will see how he feels tomorrow and we will go from there."
If Harris is ready to go, there's a very good chance he will be activated at the end of the Mets series or in Baltimore on Friday before the team will finish Sunday's suspended game before a regularly scheduled game against the Orioles.
Martinez also mentioned that right-hander Kyle Finnegan, who has gotten off to a nice start in his three appearances this season, is working on a changeup under the guidance of pitching coach Paul Menhart. Finnegan has allowed no runs on two hits with one strikeout and no walks in 3 2/3 innings this season.
Tonight's starter is Max Scherzer, who last pitched only one inning before leaving with a tight right hamstring Aug. 5 at home against the Mets. Martinez doesn't think the Nationals will hold Scherzer back tonight.
"There will be no limitations on him," Martinez said. "We are going to watch him and see how the game progresses with him. He was adamant again yesterday, saying he was ready to go. We will just keep an eye on him. He's pretty honest about how he feels on a daily basis, so we will just watch him and we will have conversations throughout the game. He's going to pitch as much as he can pitch and do what he does.
"He's ready, he feels like he is ready. He's had some good bullpen sessions these past few days so let's see what happens."
The insurance policy for tonight is Erick Fedde, who Martinez said is ready in case Scherzer runs into problems.
"Yesterday we had Fedde just throw a little bit in the bullpen," Martinez said. "But today we will just see. We want to hold him back just in case something happens. Fedde is our long guy. I'm expecting Max to go out there and give us as much as he can but we got to be cautious as well."
The opposing starter tonight is Mets right-hander Rick Porcello (1-1, 6.92 ERA), who allowed one run on five hits over seven innings in a win over the Nats and Scherzer six days ago.
"Here's a guy we know is going to be around the plate," Martinez said. "We know he throws sinkers. We know he has a good changeup. We got to get the ball up and we got to stay in the middle of the field. He's really good. He's crafty. He mixes his fastballs in with his changeup. He uses both sides of the plate, so you got to focus on getting the ball up and hit the ball in the middle of the field."