Rutledge, 21, was the Nats’ top pick in 2019 and has appeared in 10 games. The right-hander loves to employ analytics to study his stuff, but Nats minor league pitching coordinator Brad Holman said he concentrated on command these past few weeks.
“I think he made tremendous progress,” Holman said. “Not that he did away with all the analytics, he just put focus as kind of a priority and it translated into command. Where the ball is going became a higher priority for him and, to his credit, he bought in. It just got better and better and better, and it carried right into instructional league.”
The Nats and Marlins were supposed to play 12 intrasquad games but daylong rainstorms in South Florida limited them to only a handful of matchups. Rutledge got a lot of time at the alternate training site this summer, so Holman was careful with him at instructional league.
“He pitched in some games and did very well,” Holman said. “Guys in Fredericksburg cut out of instructional league a little bit early just because they had logged a lot more innings. It gave the opportunity for some of these other guys to get some innings.”
Mason Denaburg, the Nats 2018 first-round selection, has been on his own for a while as he recovered from shoulder surgery. The right-hander finally got back to real baseball activities by getting in a lot of work at West Palm Beach.
“He had a live outing,” Holman said. “We wanted to make sure that he was able to get that accomplished before we gave him an offseason. To his credit, he had to kind of build himself up over the course of the summer and he did a good job of that. We kept track via video.”
Holman said he can tell when guys work hard away from the team. He noticed that the Denaburg, 21, really focused on strength and conditioning during his rehab, following the direction of Nats trainers and coaches. Denaburg looked the part of an advanced pitcher once he got to instructional league.
“Our rehab coordinator, Mark Grater, drove up a few times to see him pitch in Orlando,” Holman said. “Denaburg did a good job when he was by himself of working. There at the end of instructional league, he faced some hitters. He was up to 90-92 mph, which I think is going to improve just with repetitions. Now he gets to have a real offseason. He’s been rehabbing since last fall. He is due some down time.”
Denaburg will get to rest before spring training. Now that he is fully healthy, 2021 will hopefully be the chance, COVID-19 pandemic issues notwithstanding, for the youngster to pitch in some more professional games with the Nats at the minor league level. He last appeared in seven Rookie-level contests in 2019, accruing 20 1/3 innings with 19 strikeouts.