Thoughts on last week's Nationals news


Hope everyone had a happy, healthy and safe holiday weekend. My thanks to Bobby Blanco for staying on top of all the Nationals news last week while I was on vacation with my family. Turns out the Nats made a fair bit of news during what often is a very slow time of the year.

Here are some thoughts on what transpired since we last spoke …

* Jeter Downs claimed from Red Sox
Two years ago, this would’ve registered high on the Richter scale. The Nationals acquiring one of the top infield prospects in baseball? That’s big news, right?

Well, maybe in December 2020 it would’ve been. Not nearly as much in December 2022.

That’s because Downs has seen a once-promising career flounder over the last two seasons. After putting up big numbers in Single-A and Double-A in 2019, Downs was perhaps the centerpiece return in Boston’s blockbuster trade of Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. But nothing went right for him with the Red Sox organization.

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Opener in New York postponed, doubleheader Tuesday (updated)

davey martinez staring

NEW YORK – The rain that made a mess of the Nationals’ entire final home series over the weekend is making a mess of their final road series of the season as well.

With what's left of Hurricane Ian slowly making its way up the East Coast, tonight's game against the Mets has been postponed. The two teams will attempt to play a straight doubleheader Tuesday at 4:10 p.m., with Cory Abbott starting the first game and Paolo Espino starting the nightcap.

Tuesday's forecast, though, calls for rain all night and all day, and it perhaps could even extend into early Wednesday, when the regular season is supposed to come to an end with a 4:10 p.m. first pitch at Citi Field.

All the Nationals can do at this point is wait, and potentially play at some point in less-than-ideal conditions, just as they did all weekend against the Phillies in D.C.

“You can’t control Mother Nature,” manager Davey Martinez said earlier in the afternoon, prior to the postponement announcement. “We’ll see what happens. It’s looking pretty nasty right now. We’ll see if this thing goes away and lets us play a nice, cold day.”

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Doolittle throws first bullpen session, Garrett goes on IL


PHILADELPHIA – It was only 15 pitches, all fastballs, thrown with care off the bullpen mound at Citizens Bank Park this afternoon. But for Sean Doolittle, it was the most significant step yet in his attempted return from a sprained elbow ligament.

And the fact he came out of today’s session feeling strong physically was reason enough for Doolittle to remain optimistic about the rest of his long rehab process.

“The first one, you really just want to come out of it feeling OK,” the Nationals reliever said. “It’s a little bit like spring training. I haven’t thrown off a mound in three months. … I was really happy with how my body was moving. The execution was a little rusty, for sure. But the ball was coming out of my hand good. All around, pretty good.”

Since landing on the injured list in mid-April after only five appearances to begin the season, Doolittle has been waiting to get back to this point again. He knew at the time the partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament could eventually require Tommy John surgery, but his decision to get a platelet-rich plasma injection and then slowly build his arm back up after a requisite period of rest seems to have worked to this point.

There are still several more significant steps for Doolittle to take. He’s scheduled to throw another bullpen session either Sunday or Monday, still sticking with fastballs only, before adding off-speed pitches his next session after that. At some point after that, he’ll be cleared to face live hitters again, then go a minor league rehab assignment.

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For Garrett, long journey to D.C. was worth it

Garrett white glove

Reed Garrett got the call around midnight on Tuesday, having only just arrived in Scranton, Pa., with his Triple-A Rochester teammates a few hours earlier. The Nationals were calling him and fellow reliever Francisco Perez up, and because there weren’t any good flight options, his best bet was to rent a car and make the four-hour drive to Washington.

So it was that Garrett found himself behind the wheel, with Perez riding shotgun, on the road to D.C., then eventually into Tuesday night’s game against the Braves. It may have sounded like a stressful trip to some, but for the 29-year-old right-hander, it sure beat the travels he endured the last two seasons.

“Reflecting on it, it’s been a wild journey,” he said. “But it’s all been worth it.”

The journey began in Henrico, Va., where Garrett was born. It included life growing up in the Richmond area rooting for the Braves, though he believes the first major league game he ever attended was at RFK Stadium to see the Nationals.

A 16th round pick of the Rangers in 2014 out of Virginia Military Institute, Garrett would be selected by the Tigers in the 2019 Rule 5 draft and make his major league debut that season, only to be sent back to Texas after 13 disappointing appearances.

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Tetreault roughed up in debut, Nats drop third straight (updated)

tetreault debut white

Jackson Tetreault found himself standing on the mound at Nationals Park at 7:06 p.m., a 26-year-old, seventh-round pick in the 2017 draft realizing a lifelong dream, starting a big league game. And when the right-hander proceeded to strike out Braves leadoff man Ronald Acuña Jr. on a high, 97-mph fastball, the impossible seemed possible, if only for a fleeting moment.

That moment indeed was fleeting, because the Acuña strikeout was followed by a no-doubt Dansby Swanson homer to left, which was followed by another run an inning later, which was followed by five more runs (including two more homers) the inning after that, leaving the Nats in a big hole they wouldn’t escape en route to a 10-4 loss.

"Early on, I just made sure I looked around, took it all in, said hi to the family, all that," Tetreault said. "But after that, it was good. Obviously not the result I was looking for, but I'm not going to shy away. I'm eager to get back out there and throw again. Just happy to get the first one under my belt. An awesome experience."

That Tetreault, who isn’t listed among the organization’s top prospects, found himself in this situation was more a reflection of the drastic pitching predicament the Nationals found themselves in than of his particular resume. After Stephen Strasburg went on the 15-day injured list with a stress reaction in his ribs and Josiah Gray had to be scratched from Monday night’s start after warming up just before a lengthy rain delay, the Nats simply needed somebody to start this game capable of throwing 90 or more pitches.

And with their higher-ranked prospects all off-schedule, the call was placed to Tetreault, who last started for Triple-A Rochester on Thursday and thus was good to go.

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Strasburg has stress reaction in ribs, Strange-Gordon DFA

Stephen Strasburg stare dugout

The Nationals formally placed Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day injured list today with a stress reaction of his second and third ribs, a diagnosis that doesn’t necessarily offer an optimistic or pessimistic outlook on the right-hander’s timetable to return but is related to the thoracic outlet surgery he had last summer and ensures he’ll be out for a not-insignificant period of time while letting this latest injury heal.

Strasburg is scheduled to fly to Southern California to be examined by specialist Neal ElAttrache, the noted orthopedist who just performed teammate Joe Ross’ second Tommy John surgery last week.

“This surgery, you just don’t know where it’s going to go,” Martinez said of pitchers who have attempted to return from thoracic outlet surgery. “I’ve seen a lot of guys go through this and not come out of it good right away. I’ve seen guys come out of it where they pitch for many years. We’re just going to have to wait. There’s no timeline right now for Stephen. He’s going to go see another specialist, and then we’ll know more.”

Strasburg had just completed a yearlong rehab process from last summer’s career-altering surgery, making his return to a big league mound Thursday night in Miami. Though he gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, with a fastball velocity that averaged 90-91 mph, the 33-year-old was genuinely encouraged with how he felt physically and was prepared to make his next start in five days.

But during a standard bullpen session Saturday, Strasburg noted something didn’t feel right. And on Sunday, shortly after the Nationals announced him as their scheduled starter for tonight’s game against the Braves, he informed the club of this new bout of discomfort, leading to an MRI on Monday.

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