Starting pitchers will get plenty of work in first weekend of games

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – A whole lot of Nationals pitchers are going to get a chance to take the mound during the first weekend of Grapefruit League play. Including a bunch of starters.

Manager Davey Martinez revealed the team’s full pitching plan for the first two games of the exhibition season, and among the notable details is the presence of five starters who each are slated to throw innings over the course of the weekend.

Patrick Corbin gets the ball first for Saturday night’s opener against the Astros. He’ll then hand it off to a pair of young right-handers who ended last season in the Nationals rotation: Jackson Rutledge and Joan Adon. If all goes according to plan, those three will eat up six innings, leaving only three more for a relief corps that will include Jordan Weems, Richard Bleier, DJ Herz and Robert Gsellman.

MacKenzie Gore starts Sunday’s game against the Marlins in Jupiter, and like the others he’ll be scheduled for two innings and 35 pitches. Gore will be followed by projected Opening Day rotation member Jake Irvin before Martinez starts handing the ball to relievers Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey, Amos Willingham, Joe La Sorsa and Luis Perdomo.

Why use the starters to this extent right from the outset of the Grapefruit League schedule?

“We’ve done it (in the past) where they only went one inning,” Martinez said. “But the reason (for giving them all two innings now) is that they’ve been so stretched out already. They’re already built up to 45-50 pitches in their bullpens, so we thought we’d do it this way, just let them go face some hitters and get two innings and 35 pitches.”

It’s also a bit unconventional for top late-inning relievers to start pitching this early in the spring. In past springs, guys like Finnegan and Harvey might not make their game debuts until early-to-mid March, recognizing they only need 8-10 total appearances to be ready for the regular season.

“Once again, these guys came to camp already throwing X amount of sides and bullpens,” Martinez said. “They’re ready to get in the game. They want to face hitters. Finnegan’s working on some things, Harvey wants to work on some things. So they’re good to go. It’s nice that they want to participate early. Clean some things up, and then we can get them going.

“If they need to slow down towards the middle, we can do that. But I’m really proud of what they did this winter as far as preparing to come to spring training. They really worked hard on coming to spring training ready to go.”

Josiah Gray is slated to start Monday against the Mets, with newly acquired veteran Zach Davies on the mound to begin Tuesday’s game against the Astros. Martinez didn’t reveal relievers for those games yet.

* Derek Law, who signed a minor league deal with a spring training invitation Wednesday, is scheduled to arrive in West Palm Beach this evening and is expected to report to the ballpark Friday.

Law, a veteran of seven big league seasons with the Giants, Blue Jays, Twins, Tigers and Reds, posted a 3.60 ERA in 54 games last year with Cincinnati. Though the 33-year-old isn’t guaranteed anything on a minor league contract, his track record and the Nats’ desire for more bullpen depth would seem to put him in a good position to make the club coming out of camp. Martinez described him as someone who could regularly be summoned to get out of a jam, then return to pitch another inning.

“He did really well last year with Cincinnati,” Martinez said. “We were able to sign him. … I’m looking forward to meeting him and talking to him. He’s definitely another guy who can help us. We’re excited about that.”

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