Nationals recall Reynaldo Lopez, release Jonathan Papelbon

The Washington Nationals recalled right-handed pitcher Reynaldo Lopez from Triple-A Syracuse and released right-handed pitcher Jonathan Papelbon on Saturday. Nationals president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

Lopez returns to the Nationals for the third start of his major league career, which he will make Saturday evening against the Atlanta Braves. The 22-year-old made his major league debut on July 19 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In that outing, Lopez struck out nine batters, the second-most by a starting pitcher in his debut in Nationals history (2005-present). Only Stephen Strasburg (14, June 8, 2010 vs. PIT) fanned more in his big league debut.

His second major league start came on the road, July 30 at San Francisco. He allowed three earned runs on four hits with five walks and four strikeouts in four innings of work as the Nationals fell 5-3. Following that start, Lopez was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.

In 18 starts between Double-A Harrisburg and Syracuse this season, Lopez is 5-6 with a 3.17 ERA. He leads Washington’s minor league system with 122 strikeouts and, among minor league pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched this season, he ranks ninth in strikeouts-per-nine-innings (10.73).

Lopez entered the 2016 season as the Nationals’ No. 5 prospect and the No. 92 prospect in all of baseball, per Baseball America. In their 2016 mid-season update, Baseball America advanced Lopez 44 spots and ranked him as the No. 48 prospect in Minor League Baseball.

A native of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, Lopez represented the Nationals at MLB’s 2016 Sirius/XM All-Star Futures Game in San Diego during All-Star week. In his one inning of work for the World Team, Lopez was clocked as high as 99 mph with his fastball.

Papelbon, 35, went 2-4 with 19 saves and a 4.37 ERA in 37 games for the Nationals in 2016. He was acquired on July 28, 2015 and went on to convert 26 of 31 save opportunities as a member of the Washington Nationals.