Sánchez, on the 10-day IL with a strained hamstring, threw a 41-pitch simulated game Friday and was encouraged by the way he felt. Manager Davey Martinez said he’ll throw a side session in the bullpen Sunday, and that would normally line him up to start three days later.
But Martinez said Friday he wants Sánchez to make at least one rehab start in the minors before he’s activated, and he reiterated that desire again today.
“I think so,” the manager said. “I want to make sure that when he goes out, he throws a good, hopefully 75 pitches and go from there.”
If Sánchez doesn’t rejoin the rotation for Wednesday’s game against the Braves, the Nationals would need to find a replacement. They could go back with McGowin, but the rookie right-hander lasted only four innings Friday and allowed five runs to the Marlins while throwing 80 pitches.
They just sent Joe Ross, who struggled out of the bullpen, to Triple-A Fresno to build himself back up as a starter. Fellow right-hander Austin Voth has a 4.54 ERA out of the Fresno rotation. Jeremy Hellickson won’t be eligible to return from a shoulder strain until Thursday.
“It’s going to be TBD,” Martinez said.
Erick Fedde, already replacing Hellickson in the rotation, will start Sunday afternoon, with Max Scherzer starting Monday’s Memorial Day finale against Miami. Stephen Strasburg is lined up to start Tuesday night’s series opener in Atlanta.
Update: After both of today’s starters posted three straight zeros to get the afternoon underway, the Nationals finally broke through against Sandy Alcantara in the bottom of the fourth in a big way. Singles by Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon opened the frame, though Eaton got caught rounding second base too far and was thrown out. No worries, because Juan Soto followed with an RBI single to right-center, extending his hitting streak to nine games and giving the Nats a 1-0 lead. And then they piled on. Soto pulled off a really nifty slide at home plate to elude the tag and score the second run. And then after a huge scare when it appeared Victor Robles took a pitch off his face (turns out it only grazed his cheek), Yan Gomes sent a ball just inside first base that somehow turned into a three-run double to make it 5-0. Patrick Corbin, meanwhile, has allowed two singles in five innings but has faced the minimum on 59 pitches thanks to a pair a double-play grounders that erased both baserunners and an excellent leaping catch by Brian Dozier.