Lipscomb sent down with Senzel activated; Ruiz goes on IL with flu

LOS ANGELES – Mitchell Parker’s major league debut takes center stage tonight, but the left-hander’s promotion was only one of five transactions the Nationals made prior to their series opener against the Dodgers.

With Nick Senzel ready to return from his fractured thumb, Trey Lipscomb was optioned back to Triple-A Rochester. And with the team desperately needing a healthy second catcher, Keibert Ruiz was finally placed on the 10-day injured list with influenza and Drew Millas was recalled from Rochester.

The decision to demote Lipscomb was the most difficult for manager Davey Martinez, who has been among the rookie infielder’s biggest supporters since spring training. But Senzel was ready to return only 2 1/2 weeks after suffering his injury prior to Opening Day. And with second baseman Luis Garcia Jr. off to a strong start himself, there wasn’t going to be an opportunity for Lipscomb to get everyday at-bats the way he did since taking Senzel’s spot.

“That was really tough. Such a great kid,” Martinez said. “The whole premise is he’s got to play every day. Luis is playing well. We need to get Nick back. So he’s going to go down and play every day, and I don’t foresee him being down there long. … He’ll be back. He did really well.”

Lipscomb burst onto the scene with five hits in his first 11 big league at-bats, including a homer in Cincinnati. But he regressed since then, going just 6-for-38 over his last 11 games. In 14 total games, the 23-year-old was batting .224 with a .278 on-base percentage and .286 slugging percentage.

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Game 16 lineups: Nats at Dodgers

GettyImages-2036100068

LOS ANGELES – It’s Jackie Robinson Day across baseball, but really there’s only one place to be for this occasion. And the Nationals have the distinct honor of being at Dodger Stadium this year for this all-important day. There was already a ceremony outside the park at the statue of Robinson, with players and coaches from both clubs attending. There will be more pregame festivities, as well.

And then there will be a ballgame, with a very fresh face on the mound for the Nats. Mitchell Parker is making his major league debut, and while the Nationals probably would have preferred a bit of a softer launch for the young left-hander than this, circumstances dictated that he get the assignment. Parker’s assignment tonight: Somehow try to contain one of the toughest lineups in the sport, especially right off the bat in the bottom of the first. If nothing else, he needs to force them to make contact to get on. Can’t be giving away free bases against the Dodgers.

The Nationals lineup scored six runs Sunday against the Athletics. They’ll need to keep that going tonight against Tyler Glasnow, the hard-throwing former Rays right-hander who now anchors the L.A. rotation. They'll do so with several roster changes announced this afternoon: Nick Senzel has been activated off the 10-day injured list, and Drew Millas has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester. Trey Lipscomb was optioned back to Rochester, and Keibert Ruiz was placed on the 10-day IL with influenza.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Where:
Dodger Stadium
Gametime: 10:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Clear, 61 degrees, wind 5 mph out to center field

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams
DH Jesse Winker
RF Lane Thomas
1B Joey Gallo
2B Luis García Jr.
3B Nick Senzel
LF Eddie Rosario
C Riley Adams
CF Jacob Young

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Playing with "hair on fire," Nats are stealing bases at record pace

Trey Lipscomb steals second base

SAN FRANCISCO – The most surprising thing about the Nationals’ 7-1 loss to the Giants on Wednesday? Nobody on the team stole more than one base during the game.

This wouldn’t normally qualify as any kind of surprise. Except the 2024 Nationals have made such feats on the basepaths so commonplace, it’s suddenly shocking when it doesn’t happen on any particular day.

The season is only two weeks old as of today, so much could still change. But at this early juncture on the baseball calendar, the Nats lead the majors with 25 stolen bases. And they’ve been caught only twice, making for a 93 percent success rate that dwarfs anything they’ve done before.

“They’re playing with their hair on fire,” manager Davey Martinez said. “And I like it.”

This was a point of emphasis from Martinez and his coaches to their players throughout spring training. They knew this lineup’s shortcomings (power) and strengths (young athleticism). Instead of lamenting what they didn’t have, why not take full advantage of what they do have?

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Lipscomb bounces back in big way during Nats' win

Trey Lipscomb swing

SAN FRANCISCO – It’s the difference between a rookie that starts his career on a high note but then fades away with time and one who proves he can sustain success over the long haul, learning and adapting along the way.

It’s still far too soon which category Trey Lipscomb will fall into, but there’s no doubt the Nationals rookie infielder wants to prove he can be the type of player who adapts and grows and thus maintains success long-term.

“I think that’s the fun part about baseball: The adjustments you have to make day by day,” he said. “Not every day you’re going to get three hits. Some days you might go 0-for-3, 0-for-4. But come back to the ballpark, and the guys around this clubhouse make you feel like you’re going to go out there and get three hits every game. I think that’s the thing I’ve been going through, and I feel good.”

Lipscomb said this late Monday night after his latest notable performance in the big leagues, this one coming on the heels of his first mini-slump.

The 23-year-old took the Nats by storm his first three days with the club, going 5-for-11 with a homer and a walk. Then came the inevitable downturn, which in his case looked like a 1-for-18, five-strikeout funk over the next five days.

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Patient Nats get to Snell early, cruise to victory in San Francisco (updated)

Lane Thomas high fives

SAN FRANCISCO – Not that their offensive issues could be whittled down to one thing, but the Nationals hadn’t exactly been a patient bunch through the season’s first nine games. Too often, Davey Martinez found himself lamenting the fact an opposing starter had made it through the fifth inning on 60-some pitches, thanks to an overaggressive lineup that wasn’t drawing walks and wasn’t scoring runs.

The message entering tonight’s series opener against the Giants had to be an obvious one: Make Blake Snell work. The veteran left-hander, in his much-anticipated season debut, is notoriously wild. And because he signed so late this spring, he never had a chance to build his arm up and would have to be on a tight pitch count.

Consider the message received and, more importantly, implemented. The Nats took full advantage of Snell’s situation, knocked him out after three innings and coasted to their easiest win of the young season, opening this West Coast trip with an 8-1 victory at Oracle Park.

"I sat with them yesterday for a little while, just talking about getting the ball in the zone, taking your walks and extending some innings," manager Martinez said. "And we did a great job today. We came in, we had a plan."

The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner held out all winter for a nine-figure contract, but his reputation – he led the league in walks despite also leading it in ERA – scared away a number of suitors. In the end, he settled for what amounts practically to a one-year, $32 million deal with the Giants only one week before Opening Day and then rushed to get himself ready to make his debut tonight.

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Abrams sitting again but hopes to return Tuesday

abrams k @BAL

SAN FRANCISCO – CJ Abrams is out of the lineup for the third straight day, but the Nationals shortstop appears to be progressing from an injured finger well enough to think he will be ready to return Tuesday night.

Abrams, who suffered a bone bruise in his left pinky sliding into second base Friday night, was due to take a full round of batting practice and fielding drills prior to tonight’s series opener against the Giants. Barring any setbacks, he could be available to come off the bench tonight and then return to the lineup Tuesday.

“He felt better today,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s going to go out and do all baseball activities. Hopefully he’ll be available to pinch-run, pinch-hit, whatever we need him for. But if he goes through everything well, he’ll probably be back in the lineup tomorrow.”

The bone bruise is on Abrams’ glove hand, so it doesn’t really impact him in the field. The larger issue is at the plate, but he’s made progress the last few days and should be able to play through it soon.

“Right now, it’s his swinging,” Martinez said. “He said he swung the bat better today in the cage. But it is his top hand. Every time he goes to turn like that, it kind of catches him. But they taped him up; he said the tape helped. Hopefully he’ll go out there today, take batting practice and get out in the field.”

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Nats face first lefty starter for home opener with Lipscomb at third, Vargas at second

Trey Lipscomb spring training

The Nationals’ home opener showcases a lot of new features to the young 2024 season.

As the home schedule on South Capitol Street kicks off, there are new things all around Nationals Park to experience. New concessions. New scoreboard. New lights. And a new lineup in just the fourth game of the year.

The Nationals will take on the first left-handed starting pitcher they've faced this season in the Pirates’ Marco Gonzales, meaning manager Davey Martinez will trot out his first right-handed-heavy lineup of the year.

Left-handed hitters Eddie Rosario, Joey Gallo and Luis García Jr. are on the bench. In their places, Victor Robles is playing center field, Joey Meneses is at first base and Ildemaro Vargas is at second, while rookie Trey Lipscomb stays at third. Catcher Keibert Ruiz is serving as the designated hitter while Riley Adams sets up behind the plate to catch the Nats’ own lefty starter in MacKenzie Gore.

“It wasn't that hard of a decision, it really wasn’t,” Martinez said ahead of this afternoon’s opener against the Pirates. “I want to get everybody in the game and get everybody involved. Keibert, who has swung the bat really well right-handed. Keep Meneses (in the lineup with Ruiz at DH) today. I wanted to get Riley back behind the plate today. Bump Lipscomb up a little bit because he's been swinging the bat well. He's done really well since he's been with us. But I want to get everybody involved. So we got some great options as far as if they make a switch and bring a righty in. We got some lefties on the bench. But I like the way we match up against this lefty today.”

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What went right this weekend before it went horribly wrong

CJ Abrams

They would’ve come home flying high, having just won the season’s opening series on the road against a team with October aspirations, and having done it on the backs of some of their most important young players.

They would’ve taken the field at Nationals Park to a thunderous roar from a large crowd excited to welcome them home for the first time in 2024, enthusiasm soaring after such an uplifting start to the year.

They would’ve been the proud owners of a winning record for the first time since – get this – July 1, 2021, a night that saw a Nationals team loaded with star power fall to 40-39 after a loss to the Dodgers in which emergency second baseman Alex Avila strained not one but both of his calves. By month’s end, they would trade Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and a host of other veterans in the first act of a long and painful roster rebuild.

The Nats won’t take the field with a winning record today, though. They’re 1-2, not 2-1, after Kyle Finnegan’s swift and painful, bottom-of-the-ninth meltdown late Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati sapped all the goodwill out of the clubhouse and left a dejected ballclub to quietly shower, dress and head to the airport.

But does that loss, agonizing as it was, really change the overall state of the Nationals on this date? Does a blown save on March 31, ghastly as it was, erase everything else that preceded it?

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Finnegan's ninth-inning meltdown spoils Nats' potential series win (updated)

Kyle Finnegan

CINCINNATI – The stage was set for another uplifting victory. Trey Lipscomb would be the hero. Other key young building blocks would have contributed. The Nationals just needed one more pitch from Kyle Finnegan.

And then, in what felt like a matter of seconds, it all collapsed.

One strike away from locking up the save, Finnegan instead surrendered a two-out double to Jonathan India, then back-to-back homers to Will Benson and Christian Encarnacion-Strand to deal the Nats a crushing 6-5 loss in the finale of their season-opening series.

"That's tough," manager Davey Martinez said. "Three-two, two outs. And then double, homer, homer. That's how the game ended. That's tough."

Handed a two-run lead for the bottom of the ninth, Finnegan seemed to be in complete control. He retired the first two batters he faced, then just needed to retire India to end it. But the Reds leadoff man kept battling, fouling off five straight fastballs before lining the 10th pitch of his at-bat into the left-field corner for a double.

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Abrams, Lipscomb, Nuñez make history with stat lines

Trey Lipscomb

CINCINNATI – The Nationals didn’t do a lot of things well in Thursday’s season-opening loss to the Reds, but high on the list was their lack of patience at the plate, leading to zero walks during the 8-2 loss.

They flipped the script Saturday, taking advantage of Hunter Greene’s wildness to draw four walks off the Cincinnati starter, then another two off closer Alexis Diaz during their ninth-inning rally to win 7-6.

Davey Martinez hopes the message sunk in for his players.

“If we accept our walks and not chase, we’ll hit the ball hard,” the manager said. “That’s what we’ve got to do always. We talked a lot about it this spring, we worked on it. These guys have to understand that taking your walks, good things happen. We saw that yesterday with CJ.”

Indeed, CJ Abrams was the biggest beneficiary of all of plate discipline. The 23-year-old shortstop drew three walks during the game, immediately stealing second base after each of them and ultimately scoring three runs.

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Kids help Nats rally before veteran completes comeback win (updated)

CJ Abrams spring training

CINCINNATI – The Nationals got major contributions from a number of young building blocks this afternoon, whether in the form of Trey Lipscomb’s solid all-around play in his major league debut, CJ Abrams’ three walks and three steals and triple or Keibert Ruiz’s latest clutch homer.

But when they needed one last contribution to pull off a rousing, come-from-behind win, they turned to one of the veterans they signed during spring training for moments just like this.

After Lipscomb, Abrams and Ruiz did their thing, Eddie Rosario did his, producing the sacrifice fly that capped a three-run rally in the top of the ninth and propelled the Nats to a stirring, 7-6 victory over the Reds that required all sorts of performances to make possible.

"Any game is fun to win," Abrams said. "But we all came and had each other's back, and we had fun getting the win today."

Having already rallied to tie the game the previous two innings, the Nationals were forced to do it again in the ninth after Hunter Harvey gave up a two-run double to new Cincinnati cult hero Nick Martini. They came through in impressive fashion against closer Alexis Diaz.

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Lipscomb emotionally ready for debut as Senzel copes with injury

Trey Lipscomb Harrisburg defense

CINCINNATI – Trey Lipscomb had just completed his first workout Thursday at Innovative Field in Rochester and was preparing to board a bus with his Triple-A teammates for Syracuse, the site of the following day’s season opener. First, though, Red Wings manager Matt LeCroy wanted to let his players know who they would be sharing hotel rooms with on the road, so he pulled names out of a hat and announced as he went along.

Lipscomb’s name, as it turned out, was the last one drawn. The 23-year-old figured that meant he would get his own room in Syracuse. Instead, LeCroy announced to everyone in the clubhouse he was heading to Cincinnati to join the Nationals.

“He drew my name and he said: ‘You get your own hotel room, and you’re going to The Show,’” Lipscomb recalled this afternoon from the dugout at Great American Ball Park, where tonight he’ll make his major league debut. “It was pretty cool. Pretty cool.”

Lipscomb nearly made the Nats’ Opening Day roster, surviving the entirety of spring training and traveling with the team to D.C. for Tuesday’s exhibition finale. In the end, the club decided to keep Luis Garcia Jr. at second base and Rule 5 draftee Nasim Nunez on the bench, so Lipscomb was to begin the year with Rochester and spend most of his time at second base.

Then Nick Senzel fractured his right thumb trying to field a bad-hop grounder during batting practice before Thursday’s game, and the Nationals were left to scramble and call Lipscomb up before he ever had a chance to play his first Triple-A game.

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Game 2 lineups: Nats at Reds

corbin v NYM

CINCINNATI – And now the grind begins.

With the hoopla of Opening Day – and the traditional just-in-case-of-rainout off-day – now behind them, the Nationals and Reds get down to business. There will be fewer fans and media in attendance. Things won’t be magnified as much. It’s just another ballgame today.

Except for Trey Lipscomb, who makes his major league debut after officially having his contract purchased from Triple-A Rochester, with Nick Senzel going on the 10-day injured list with a fractured right thumb. Lipscomb made all kinds of headlines this spring with his .400 batting average and solid defensive play at multiple positions, but this is still a big leap for the 23-year-old, who only two years ago was playing at Tennessee.

The Nats will try to make it easy on Lipscomb (who starts at third base and bats ninth) by doing more at the plate against Reds flamethrower Hunter Greene than they did against Opening Day starter Frankie Montas. And they’ll hope to get a better showing from Patrick Corbin than they got from Josiah Gray. Though it’s worth noting there’s a strong wind blowing out to left field here today. It’s already a small ballpark under normal conditions. Corbin is going to have to do his best to keep the ball out of the air.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CINCINNATI REDS
Where:
Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati
Gametime: 4:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 74 degrees, wind 17 mph out to left field

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Senzel injury will force Nats to create new plan for Lipscomb

Trey Lipscomb spring training

CINCINNATI – The Nationals had a plan all mapped out for Trey Lipscomb.

Lipscomb, the last player demoted from the spring training roster, would report to Triple-A Rochester, where he would get the bulk of his playing time at second base. There would be occasional starts at both shortstop and third base, but manager Davey Martinez wanted the versatile infielder to start getting comfortable at the position he has played the least coming up through the minors.

“It was a new position for him coming into the spring,” Martinez said around 1:45 p.m. Thursday, shortly before his team took the field at Great American Ball Park for batting practice. “So that was a big reason why we sent him over there, to get him accustomed to turning two all the time. And to be ready when he’s called upon.”

Maybe 30 minutes after making that statement, Martinez saw Nick Senzel leave the field with his right hand in a cup of ice. A short while late, the Nationals got the official word: Senzel had fractured his thumb trying to field an errant grounder during pregame warmups.

And just like that, the plan for Lipscomb was thrown out the window.

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Starting lineups: Nationals Futures Game in D.C.

Robert Hassell III Victor Robles spring training

The Nationals have broken camp. With spring training coming to a close, the team has left the warmth of West Palm Beach and returned to cold, damp Washington, D.C.

Ah, it must feel so good to be home.

Well, at least it must feel good to get the regular season started. The Nats have just one more exhibition game to play before heading to Cincinnati to face the Reds on Thursday for Opening Day. And the best part … they get to face some of their own teammates.

Yes, for the first time since the Nats have hosted an exhibition game on South Capitol Street right before the start of the season, they will face a lineup of their own top prospects instead of another major league team beginning the year on the East Coast.

Among the top prospects expected to participate in today’s game are:

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Nats announce prospects roster for Futures Game

Brady House Trey Lipscomb James Wood spring training

The Nationals arrived back in D.C. last night and now only have one more exhibition game to play before heading to Cincinnati for Opening Day.

Once again, the Nats are hosting their exhibition finale on their home field on South Capitol Street. But for the first time, they are not playing another major league team set to open the regular season on the East Coast. Instead, the Nats’ regular big leaguers will play against a squad of the organization’s top prospects.

Headlined by Dylan Crews, James Wood, Brady House, Robert Hassell III and Trey Lipscomb, the Nationals announced the prospects roster for tomorrow’s “On Deck: Nationals Futures Game” at Nationals Park:

Pitchers – Brendan Collins, DJ Herz, Joe La Sorsa, Orlando Ribalta, Jackson Rutledge, Tyler Schoff, Jarlin Susana, Amos Willingham

Catchers – Drew Millas, Israel Pineda, Maxwell Romero Jr.

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Regulars get work in before Nats head north

corbin pitches blue

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – The Nationals’ goal for today’s Grapefruit League finale was pretty simple: Get guys in, get them out, get them on a plane to D.C.

Though most of the regulars made the 45-minute trip to Mets camp, all were out of the game by the bottom of the fourth and hitting the showers so they could catch the early bus back to West Palm Beach. After that was the scheduled charter flight home, setting the stage for Tuesday’s final exhibition at Nationals Park and then Thursday’s season opener in Cincinnati.

So there wasn’t a whole lot to evaluate from what wound up a 10-1 loss. As long as everybody emerged healthy, everybody would be happy.

Patrick Corbin didn’t mind that he allowed three runs and seven hits in only four innings. The veteran left-hander knew he was scheduled for only four frames today. He would’ve preferred a slightly lower pitch count than his final total of 86, but the extra work wasn’t the worst thing, either.

“We were thinking four and 60,” he said. “So, some more pitches than I thought. But it was definitely good to at least get one more game, a real spring game, in. I’m ready to go, ready for Saturday.”

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Late-night cuts leave Nats with only one more roster decision

Trey Lipscomb spring training

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Nationals made four more cuts following tonight’s split-squad, day-night doubleheader, and in the process left themselves with only one more decision to make before their Opening Day roster is set.

The club optioned outfielders Alex Call and Jacob Young and catcher Drew Millas to Triple-A Rochester and reassigned reliever Jacob Barnes to minor league camp, leaving only 27 healthy players remaining heading into the final day of spring training.

The demotions of Call and Young leave the Nationals with four remaining outfielders, all of whom are expected to make the team: Lane Thomas, Victor Robles, Eddie Rosario and Jesse Winker. The latter two, who are on minor league contracts, will need to be added to the 40-man roster.

The demotion of Millas leaves the Nats’ catching tandem from the majority of the last two seasons (Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams) intact.

The reassignment of Barnes, who pitched a scoreless inning tonight and finished the spring with an 0.87 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings, appears to solidify the Nationals’ Opening Day bullpen. Barring a late addition from outside the organization, the eight-man relief corps will include Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey, Dylan Floro, Tanner Rainey, Jordan Weems, Derek Law, Matt Barnes and Robert Garcia (the lone left-hander in the group). Law and Barnes, who signed minor league deals after camp began, will also need to be added to the 40-man roster.

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Irvin finishes stellar spring with another gem; Gore to start home opener (updated)

irvin city v SFG

JUPITER, Fla. – It hadn’t really dawned on Jake Irvin that his final start of the spring came against what very well may be the Cardinals’ Opening Day lineup, which the young Nationals right-hander proceeded to hold to one hit and two weeks over six sparkling innings.

Asked if he felt it was significant he performed that well against a full major league lineup, Irvin shrugged.

“Sure, I can’t say necessarily that it is,” he replied. “For me, it’s competing, throwing strikes, a lot of strikes today. That’s the main goal.”

Consider this, then, another important step in Irvin’s development throughout a spring that proved to be exceptional. After getting roughed up once March 1 while admittedly working on some new things, he flipped the script completely, focused on competing to the best of his abilities.

And the results were fantastic. Over his final three Grapefruit League starts, Irvin tossed 15 scoreless innings, scattering four hits and two walks while striking out 13.

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Williams on short leash as No. 5 starter; Wood headed to Rochester

Trevor Williams red

JUPITER, Fla. – Trevor Williams will open the season in the Nationals’ rotation, but the leash on the veteran right-hander could be short.

In granting Zach Davies his unconditional release Friday, the Nats also selected Williams for the final spot in the Opening Day rotation, hoping the 31-year-old can bounce back from a difficult 2023 season. But with pitching prospect Jackson Rutledge beginning the season at Triple-A Rochester and Cade Cavalli expected to return from Tommy John surgery in June, the organization will have alternate options in the near future, putting pressure on Williams to pitch well enough to keep his job.

“It was a tough choice, a tough decision,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We decided we were going to go with Trevor as our fifth starter. So Trevor will be our fifth starter. … Zach was a professional. He’s a good guy. I wish him all the best. And hopefully, he gets picked up somewhere. But Trevor’s done well. I think he deserves a chance, at least at the beginning, to start. And then we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Martinez said the Nationals offered Davies (who finished with a Grapefruit League ERA of 9.00 after a seven-run inning in his last start) the opportunity to report to Rochester, but the 31-year-old opted to become a free agent and attempt to sign with another club.

The decision to stick with Williams (who is making $7 million this season) in the rotation, rather than move him to the bullpen, has a domino effect on several relievers still competing for spots on the Opening Day roster. With Robert Garcia likely to make it as the only lefty in the group, there are now three veteran right-handers on minor league contracts trying to win two remaining jobs: Derek Law, Jacob Barnes and Matt Barnes.

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