Chavis, Rutherford, Harris free agents after cut from 40-man roster

Michael Chavis throw blue

The Nationals are cutting ties with infielder Michael Chavis, outfielder Blake Rutherford and reliever Hobie Harris, clearing necessary space on their 40-man roster as they prepare to enter the offseason.

Chavis, Rutherford and Harris cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple-A Rochester. Both Chavis and Rutherford, who ended the season on the active big league roster, had the right to declare free agency and chose to do so, leaving the organization. Harris, who made the Opening Day bullpen but spent most of the season with Rochester, will be a minor league free agent at the conclusion of the World Series.

Those three moves, plus comparable moves with reliever Victor Arano and outfielder Travis Blankenhorn earlier this month, cleared a total of five spots on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, which ultimately will be needed for players who ended the season on the 60-day injured list.

The Nats had six such players on the 60-day IL at season’s end: catcher Riley Adams, outfielders Stone Garrett and Victor Robles, and right-handers Cade Cavalli, Carl Edwards Jr. and Stephen Strasburg. Edwards becomes eligible for free agency after the World Series and is unlikely to return.

Strasburg has already come to the conclusion he’ll need to retire after a failed attempt to return from thoracic outlet surgery, but until he and the organization come to an agreement on how to handle the $105 million he’s still owed through 2026, he will need to occupy a spot on the 40-man roster.

Continue reading

Nats swap outfielders again with Rutherford replacing Blankenhorn

rutherford city connect

The Nationals made another change to their ever-changing outfield for the final 11 games of the season, placing Travis Blankenhorn on the 10-day injured list with plantar fasciitis and recalling Blake Rutherford from Triple-A Rochester.

Blankenhorn had not played since Thursday in Pittsburgh, when the pain in his foot became significant enough to keep him off the field. The 27-year-old had only been called up from Triple-A two weeks prior, homering in his Nats debut but doing little after that.

“About three days ago, he said it was really bothering him a lot,” manager Davey Martinez said. “So we decided just to shut him down. He was hurting pretty good.”

In 10 total games, Blankenhorn went 5-for-31 with that one homer and RBI, six walks, six strikeouts and a .555 OPS, failing to seize the left field job when given an opportunity to take it over for the season’s final month.

Rutherford had already been given a similar opportunity in August, called up from Triple-A and given a chance to play on a regular basis after posting big numbers in Rochester. But the 26-year-old started his major league career in an 0-for-16 slump before going six for his next eleven.

Continue reading

Nats preparing for expanded roster

Tanner Rainey

Major league rosters expand to 28 players today, allowing teams to carry two extra players from now through the end of the regular season.

For general manager Mike Rizzo and the Nationals, there are a couple of different ways they can utilize the extra spots.

“We talked about a few things,” manager Davey Martinez said before last night’s opener against the Marlins. “Mike and the crew upstairs are really bearing down and figuring out what we want to do and which direction we want to go in.”

Teams are allowed to have a maximum of 14 pitchers in September. The Nats will call up one pitcher and have a 10-man bullpen at least for the weekend while starter MacKenzie Gore is on the bereavement list, which means he has to miss at least three games.

If Gore needs more time before returning, the Nationals will still be able to start Patrick Cobin on regular rest thanks to Monday’s off-day and the six-man rotation. The extra man in the bullpen also helps as added insurance. Left-hander Joe La Sorsa was activated to the roster yesterday to take Gore’s roster spot for now.

Continue reading

Nats storm back early, bullpen holds on late to beat Phillies (updated)


There was juice at Nationals Park tonight, the kind of energy that comes not merely from a large crowd but from a highly competitive game between an opponent trying to reach the World Series for the second straight year and a home team trying to prove to everyone they’re not as far away from reaching that goal as most would’ve believed not long ago.

A crowd of 26,747 that included a healthy amount of Phillies fans roared when the Nationals took an early lead off Michael Lorenzen, foiling his unlikely bid for a second straight no-hitter. It roared when the Phillies put up a six-spot in the top of the fourth to take what looked like a commanding lead. It roared when the Nats fought right back to score six runs of their own in the bottom of the inning and re-take the lead. And it roared as a parade of Nationals relievers held on to finish off a thoroughly enjoyable 8-7 victory and continue a thoroughly convincing turnaround over the last month.

Thanks to CJ Abrams’ three-run homer and lights-out work from a bullpen that looks better each passing day, the Nats won for the 15th time in their last 18 home games. They’re 18-9 since July 21. And they continue to beat good teams, often through a surge of power and late-inning heroics.

"We always tell each other we're going to surprise some people," Abrams said. "I think we've done that. And we're going to keep going and see what happens."

Why wouldn’t the assembled crowd on South Capitol Street tonight feel the energy and embrace a rebuilding home ballclub that is trying to expedite the timeline for a return to the kind of success that used to be the norm around here?

Continue reading

After a family loss, Rutherford records elusive first hit

Blake Rutherford first hit cherry blossoms

So far, it’s been a weekend of firsts for members of this Nationals squad.

Jake Alu recorded his first major league home run on Friday. And on Saturday, after seven minor league seasons and a week in the majors, Blake Rutherford recorded his elusive first hit.

“I don't even know if it's really sunk in. It was a surreal moment,” Rutherford said of his first hit after the Nationals’ 3-2 walk-off win over the Athletics. “I can't really thank all these players, all the coaches for having my back and for telling me to keep going, to keep pushing. Every single one of them is picking me up every single day and I couldn't be more thankful for that. To have my brother fly in and my girlfriend here to be able to see it, not as many people as the debut, but to still have people here who are part of the journey is special and I'm extremely grateful for them and for all my family back home watching. It's just a special moment for all of us, not just me.”

The 26-year-old wasted no time in last night’s game. In his first at-bat in a 1-2 count, the left-handed hitter slapped a 100-mph outside sinker from righty Luis Medina the other way for a single to load the bases.

He had a huge smile on his face as he stood on the bag with his teammates giving him a standing ovation from the dugout and first base coach Eric Young Jr. giving him a big hug.

Continue reading

Ruiz walks off A's for another home series win (updated)

Keibert Ruiz walkoff

The Nationals have been playing well at home over the last month, a stark difference from the first half of the season. It took until the ninth inning, but that trend continued tonight against the Athletics.

With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Keibert Ruiz stepped to the plate and delivered a first-pitch walk-off home run to right field for a 3-2 win in front of 28,635 screaming fans.

“I was looking for a good pitch to hit," Ruiz said after the victory celebrations. "I got it and I put a good swing on it. Just grateful to god for this opportunity. I've been dreaming for this moment for a long time.”

He got a perfect pitch to hit from Oakland reliever Lucas Erceg. The right-hander left a 97-mph fastball right down the middle of the plate for Ruiz to crush 391 feet into the Nationals bullpen and then trot the bases to his awaiting teammates for a cold Gatorade bath at home plate.

“I can't describe that moment," Ruiz said. "Like I said, I've been dreaming for that moment for a long time and really grateful to god.”

Continue reading

While still searching for his first hit, Nats want Rutherford to relax

Blake Rutherford BP

PHILADELPHIA – Blake Rutherford waited seven years to make his major league debut. Now he’s been waiting seven days for his first major league hit.

It’s a tough hurdle to cross for any player in his first taste of the majors. You have to find that perfect balance of staying true to your form while not pressing too much if it doesn’t come right away.

Rutherford is still hitless in his first five games with the Nationals. He’s been platooning in left field with Stone Garrett against right-handed starting pitchers, so he’ll likely get his next chance at his first knock tonight against A’s righty Paul Blackburn.

Five games over one’s first week in the majors is not enough of a sample size to make any judgements. The Nats will still give him plenty of opportunities in the near future. They just want to see him relax more.

“He definitely wants to get that one hit right away,” said manager Davey Martinez. “We need to get him to relax and hopefully … he gets that out of the way. Once you get that one, you kind of relax and drop your shoulders a little bit. But we're really trying to get him to relax.”

Continue reading

Game 113 lineups: Nats at Phillies (Take 2)

thomas and rutherford

PHILADELPHIA – Let’s try this again, shall we?

The heavy rain is gone, but the strong winds that came through Philly last night are still here. Regardless, the weather is much more suitable for not just one, but two baseball games today.

The Nationals are sticking with Monday’s scheduled starter Trevor Williams for Game 1 of the doubleheader. The right-hander should be plenty rested after throwing 89 pitches in just four innings in his last start against the Mets. The only concern may be if there’s any rust as that outing was nine days ago.

Meanwhile, the Phillies are saving Ranger Suárez for the nightcap while Zack Wheeler, their originally scheduled starter for Tuesday, gets bumped up to the first game. Wheeler is 8-5 with a 3.71 ERA and 1.107 WHIP in 22 starts. He has pitched to an impressive 2.36 ERA over his first four starts of the second half, though he has given up 11 runs in 8 ⅔ innings (11.42 ERA) in two starts against the Nats this year.

Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 The Fan,
Weather: Partly cloudy, 78 degrees, wind 14 mph in from left field

SS CJ Abrams
RF Lane Thomas
DH Joey Meneses
1B Dominic Smith
C Keibert Ruiz
2B Jake Alu
3B Ildemaro Vargas
LF Blake Rutherford
CF Alex Call

Continue reading

Rutherford relishes long-awaited MLB debut


CINCINNATI – Blake Rutherford initially figured he’d make his major league debut for the team that used its first-round draft pick on him in 2016: the Yankees. When he was part of a significant trade one year later, he assumed his debut would now come for the club that acquired him: the White Sox.

So imagine what must’ve been going through Rutherford’s mind Friday night when he took the field at Great American Ball Park, making his long-awaited major league debut not for the Yankees, not for the White Sox but for the Nationals.

“A lot of emotions,” the 26-year-old admitted. “A lot of people to thank. A lot of special people in my life that allowed me to get to this moment.”

The path may have been longer and more winding than he imagined when he became a professional seven years ago, but that didn’t make the end result any less sweet for Rutherford. He’s a big leaguer now, promoted by the Nationals and thrust into their starting lineup in left field for Friday’s series opener against the Reds after veteran Corey Dickerson was released.

Rutherford was a top-50 prospect in the sport back in 2017, the 18th overall pick in the draft by the Yankees out of his Southern California high school. And he was highly touted enough to be part of a four-player package (including Tyler Clippard) the Yankees sent to the White Sox in a July 2017 trade for Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.

Continue reading

Martinez explains García demotion; Adon to start Saturday

luis garcia blue

CINCINNATI – The Nationals’ surprise decision to demote Luis García to Triple-A following Wednesday’s game wasn’t a sign the organization has given up on the struggling second baseman, manager Davey Martinez insisted today, but rather an acknowledgment he must show improvement in several areas to earn his way back to the big leagues.

“I still strongly believe that Luis is a big part of our future, I really do,” Martinez told reporters before tonight’s series opener against the Reds. “There’s some consistency stuff that we want him to work on. We want him to do it without having to worry about putting up numbers and that nature. He does a lot of things well. We think he can get better.”

García was optioned after Wednesday’s walk-off win over the Brewers after a sustained slump over 27 games that saw him bat just .196 with a .227 on-base percentage and .499 OPS. That left his season totals at a disappointing .259 average, .293 on-base percentage and .656 OPS.

The 23-year-old, who made his major league debut almost exactly three years ago, had been a mainstay on the big league roster and in the Nats lineup since last summer. And through much of the first three months of this season, he had shown progress in his pitch selection at the plate and defensive play at second base.

But García's struggles over the last month were noticeable, and Martinez indicated there were concerns about his preparation and pregame routine. Rather than let him try to work that out at the big league level, the club felt it was better to have him figure it out at Rochester.

Continue reading

Game 110 lineups: Nats at Reds

corbin pitching gray

CINCINNATI – Hello from Great American Ball Park, where the Nationals come to town with some new faces and a new look to their lineup after Wednesday’s surprising roster moves.

Blake Rutherford is your new starting left fielder, the 26-year-old set to make his major league debut after getting called up from Triple-A Rochester to take Corey Dickerson’s spot. A former first-round pick of the Yankees, Rutherford produced a .978 OPS in the minors this season and now will finally get his shot at this level. A left-handed hitter, it would appear he’ll join Stone Garrett in the left field platoon.

Jeter Downs also was called up from Triple-A, though he’s not in tonight’s lineup. Instead, Jake Alu moves to second base to take Luis García’s spot, with Ildemaro Vargas starting at third base. We’ll see what Davey Martinez has to say about the infield plan now.

Patrick Corbin, meanwhile, gets the ball against a Reds lineup that roughed him up for six runs and 10 hits in five innings back on July 4 in D.C. He’ll have his hands full against the likes of Elly De La Cruz and this exciting young Cincinnati club, which swept that four-game holiday series last month. 

Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 6:40 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, wind 3 mph out to left field

Continue reading