Willingham called up from Triple-A; Ruiz still sick; Garrett ready for rehab

OAKLAND, Calif. – The revolving door that is the 26th man on the Nationals roster stopped on a new name today: Amos Willingham. The club wanted to carry an extra reliever for this weekend’s series against the Athletics, so Willingham got the call to replace catcher Drew Millas, who flew to San Francisco for one game Wednesday before getting sent right back to Triple-A Rochester.

Turns out the Nats might have preferred to keep Millas around a little longer, because Keibert Ruiz remains sick with flu-like symptoms, leaving the team with only one healthy catcher tonight in Riley Adams.

Ruiz hasn’t played since Monday’s series opener against the Giants. Adams caught the following night, then Millas was called up for Wednesday’s game, which he started before being optioned back to Rochester at the end of the day.

Millas’ spot went to Willingham, recalled from Rochester this morning to give the team an eighth reliever.

“We thought we needed another guy in the bullpen,” manager Davey Martinez said. “So he’s going to be with us until otherwise noted. But I really felt like we could use another guy in the bullpen to help us out a little bit. They’ve been out there quite a bit already, so having another guy in the bullpen helps.”

Willingham made his major league debut last summer in Seattle and finished the season with a 6.66 ERA and 1.808 WHIP in 18 games. He’s allowed three runs in five innings so far this year, but was the only minor league reliever currently on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, making his promotion more likely because it didn’t require the clearing of any other spots.

It wouldn’t have been a big deal, except Ruiz continues to be sick and wasn’t ready to return to play tonight, leaving Adams as the de facto starting catcher with no healthy backup. (Utility man Ildemaro Vargas would serve as the emergency catcher if it comes to that.)

“He said he was feeling better (Wednesday), and then yesterday he started to get sick again,” Martinez said. “Poor kid, he was just laying down in the training room. He’s sick.”

* Nick Senzel continues to rehab at Double-A Harrisburg, but the injured third baseman appears to be a few days away from coming off the 10-day injured list.

Senzel, who fractured his left thumb fielding a bad-hop grounder during batting practice Opening Day in Cincinnati, was due to start his third game for Harrisburg tonight before the Senators’ game was rained out.

Though Senzel has played multiple positions throughout his career, Martinez indicated the plan is to keep him at third base when he returns. The manager didn’t go into details about what that would mean for Trey Lipscomb (who has played third in Senzel’s absence), nor for second baseman Luis García Jr. or backup infielder Nasim Nuñez.

“The good news is a lot of these guys can do multiple things,” Martinez said. “But (Senzel) is going to play third base for us. He’s still not here. When we get him here, we’ll have some options, which is nice.”

* Senzel will be joined in Harrisburg by Stone Garrett, who is finally ready to begin a rehab assignment nearly eight months after breaking his leg colliding with the wall at Yankee Stadium.

Garrett would’ve made his rehab debut tonight if not for the Harrisburg rainout, so he’s scheduled to play Saturday in his first actual game action since suffering the injury last August.

“He’s going to play nine innings until he deems he can’t,” Martinez said. “Hopefully he goes out there and he can play three or four days in a row, maybe DH one in between. But he needs to start playing now and getting back into baseball shape and a baseball routine.”

* Martinez didn’t have an update on Jackson Rutledge, who took a line drive off his right foot or ankle during Thursday’s start with Rochester. Rutledge, who went down to the ground in pain after getting struck by the comebacker, had to be helped off the field.

If healthy, Rutledge would probably be the top candidate to be called up to start either Monday or Tuesday against the Dodgers, taking the rotation slot that opened when Josiah Gray went on the 15-day IL. If he’s not healthy, the Nationals could look to left-hander Mitchell Parker or DJ Herz, or right-hander Thaddeus Ward.

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