And with Joe Ross also making his return from Tommy John surgery, the Nats will have some pitching decisions to make.
Though the club hasn’t formally announced its full complement of September call-ups, manager Davey Martinez did acknowledge today that Robles will be among the players promoted following the Chiefs’ season finale today, with Ross activated off the DL following his lengthy rehab assignment.
Robles entered the season as the Nationals’ top-ranked prospect, but the combination of an elbow injury that sidelined him three months and the surprise ascension of Juan Soto to the big leagues at 19 has perhaps dropped Robles from the forefront of some folks’ minds.
That’s not true within the Nationals front office and coaching staff, though, which is eager to see Robles in the big leagues for the first time in 2018 after an electric debut one year ago.
“We plan on calling up Robles, and I want to see him play,” Martinez said. “I want to see him play up here.”
The Nationals got a glimpse of Robles’ potential last September, when he went 6-for-24 with a double and two triples, earning a spot on the postseason roster. He almost certainly would have earned an early season promotion this year, but he hyperextended his left elbow making a diving catch in early April and missed three months.
During that time, Soto burst up the organization ladder, made his MLB debut and now is a contender for National League Rookie of the Year honors. With Adam Eaton and Michael A. Taylor under club control for a minimum two and three more seasons, respectively, and with Bryce Harper at least a possibility to re-sign with the club as a free agent this winter, the Nats aren’t lacking for outfielders.
Robles, though, still seems to figure prominently into the organization’s plans. And Martinez believes Soto’s emergence this year will help motivate Robles.
“Because for one, Soto’s been so successful this year, I think it gives (Robles) an opportunity to come up and say: ‘Hey, I can do that. I can be that guy,’” the manager said. “You can only imagine having a Robles and a Soto, as young as they are, in the same outfield. It’s pretty good. I’m looking forward to watching those guys play side-by-side, see how fun that can be. We definitely become athletic. Robles brings a lot of energy, and I know he loves to play. When he comes up, we’ll see what happens.”
Ross, meanwhile, is set to make his return from the Tommy John surgery he had more than 13 months ago. The right-hander made six rehab starts, most recently thrown 89 pitches for Syracuse over the weekend, so his arm has been stretched out.
The Nationals now have to figure out when and in what capacity Ross will pitch for them. Erick Fedde is already slated to come off the DL to start Tuesday against the Cardinals, but there could be openings later this week against the Cubs.
“We’re actually going to sit down after we talk and have a gameplan and see what we are going to do here with him,” Martinez said. “There is a good chance he might start; we don’t know that yet.”
Update: With Max Scherzer and Jack Flaherty on the mound today, this had the makings of a classic pitchers’ duel. It has slowly developed into that, but it certainly didn’t look like it early on. The Cardinals got to Scherzer in the top of the first via Paul DeJong’s two-out, two-run single. Scherzer has settled down since then, though, and has nine strikeouts through five innings. Trea Turner, meanwhile, homered off Flaherty in the bottom of the first, and the Nats went on to load the bases via three walks. But Wilmer Difo struck out to end that inning, and they haven’t been able to string anything else together since. So after five innings, the Nats trail 2-1.
Update II: Make it 3-1. Yairo Munoz got an 0-2 fastball from Scherzer to lead off the sixth, and though it didn’t look off the bat like he got all of it, he did indeed. The ball cleared the fence in right-center, leaving the Nats in a two-run hole after six.
Update III: Harper to the rescue! He launched a two-run homer off Bud Norris with one out in the ninth to bring the Nats back from the dead and force extra innings. They could’ve won it in the bottom of the ninth after loading the bases with two outs, but Matt Wieters struck out, so we’re heading to the 10th.