Series opener postponed, Nats reach vaccination threshold

The Nationals are getting the night off. And then another shortened doubleheader Saturday. If the weather permits.

Tonight's series opener against the Brewers was officially postponed, with sustained rain forecast for the entire evening and into Saturday. The two clubs, in conjunction with Major League Baseball, made the call about 3 1/2 hours before scheduled first pitch, opting not to wait it out and risk another lengthy delay like the Nats and Reds experienced Wednesday night before the game had to be suspended in the fourth inning.

They'll attempt to make up this rainout with a split doubleheader Saturday, with the makeup game scheduled for 2:05 p.m. and the originally scheduled game still on tap for 7:15 p.m. Both games will now be seven innings, per MLB's newfangled doubleheader rules.

Tickets for tonight's rainout are good for Saturday afternoon's makeup game. Fans will need to exit the ballpark afterward and re-enter with a separate ticket for Saturday night's game (which is scheduled to start 10 minutes later than normal because it is being regionally broadcast on FOX).

Saturday's forecast looks just as bad as tonight's, so it's entirely possible they won't be able to play one or both games, creating a major dilemma Sunday and beyond because the Brewers don't make another trip to D.C. this season.

Nats-Park-Tarp-Fisheye-sidebar.jpg"We've got to focus on today, and tonight's weather is supposed to get a lot worse throughout the night," manager Davey Martinez said during his Zoom session with reporters. "MLB decided with us and the Brewers that we'll postpone it and see what happens tomorrow. As we all know, no one can predict the weather and things can change. But tonight, it's supposed to get pretty bad as the night goes. Hopefully we can play tomorrow, but we'll see."

If the doubleheader proceeds as now planned, Martinez said Jon Lester and Patrick Corbin will start the two games, though the club hasn't determined which left-hander will start which game.

* Erick Fedde, as expected, was cleared to re-emerge from what turned into a nine-day quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 last week. The right-hander will now make a planned rehab start for Double-A Harrisburg on Saturday at Bowie.

Fedde, who is vaccinated and never experienced any symptoms of the virus, learned last Wednesday he tested positive while the Nationals were in Chicago. He and Tanner Rainey, who was deemed a close contact but never tested positive, were required to go into quarantine there and only were cleared to return to Washington earlier this week. Rainey was cleared to come off the COVID-19 injured list Thursday and appeared in that afternoon's game.

Because he hasn't pitched now in 12 days, Fedde will need to make at least one rehab start to build his arm back up before he rejoins the active roster. He is permitted to make that rehab appearance for Harrisburg at nearby Bowie instead of traveling to join Triple-A Rochester's roster because he is vaccinated, and according to Martinez will need only to go through one round of testing before rejoining the Nationals.

"He's got to get tested, just like everyone else does," the manager said. "But he's good to go. As soon as we deem him ready, he can rejoin the team."

* Will Harris had his right hand examined by a specialist in Dallas this week who presented the reliever with multiple options to treat the mysterious ailment that has derailed his season to date.

Martinez wouldn't divulge details of those options, but the Nationals have been prepared to learn the 36-year-old might need to miss significant time.

Harris first complained of swelling in his hand during spring training. A doctor in West Palm Beach, Fla., diagnosed him with a blood clot in his arm, and he traveled to St. Louis expecting to undergo a procedure to remove it, or perhaps a more serious surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. That specialist, though, found no evidence of a blood clot or thoracic outlet syndrome, and cleared the pitcher to rejoin the club.

Harris wound up appearing in eight games, allowing runs in four of them. After failing to retire any of the three Orioles batters he faced Saturday, he was placed back on the 10-day IL with right hand inflammation.

* Martinez revealed the organization is finally crossing the 85 percent vaccination threshold required by MLB for the easing of COVID-19 protocols and restrictions.

According to the manager, Tier 1 players and staffers will be allowed to go maskless while outdoors beginning June 1. They'll also be able to relax restrictions involving assigned seating on the team charter and bus.

"That's awesome. That's great," Martinez said. "The guys have all, the majority of them have been vaccinated. So we're at that 85 percent threshold."

In its weekly update on league-wide COVID-19 cases and vaccinations, MLB said 16 clubs have already surpassed the 85 percent threshold, with three more set to do so within the next two weeks. The league says 84.5 percent of all Tier 1 individuals across the sport are considered partially or fully vaccinated.

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