WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Right-hander Stephen Strasburg will make his first Grapefruit League start at home against the Rays on Friday, and lefty Patrick Corbin will take his first spring turn on Saturday when the Nationals travel to Jupiter to face the Cardinals.
Manager Davey Martinez has been slow-playing his veteran starters in the early portion of the exhibition schedule and said he expects both pitchers to go about two innings or 30 pitches in their first game action.
While Strasburg and Corbin’s assignments are now written in ink, there’s uncertainty surrounding when reliever Will Harris will pitch for the first time in a game.
Harris, who signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the Nats in early January, was scheduled to make his first game appearance tonight, but has been scratched from that assignment after tweaking an abdominal muscle on his left side.
“Harris had a little setback,” Martinez said Thursday afternoon. “As he normally does every spring training, he threw an extended bullpen the other day and woke up yesterday and he didn’t feel right. He tweaked his abdomen, so as a precaution, we’re going to hold him back.”
The Nationals will wait three or four days before letting Harris, 35, throw again before re-evaluating him.
Martinez said an MRI performed on Harris showed no significant issues.
“Just a little tweak,” Martinez said. “He says he feels OK, but we’re going to be on the conservative side and kind of build him up. Like I said, we’re in February, there’s no sense in rushing him out there.”
Martinez has held back three of his late-inning relievers - Harris, Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle - because their workloads last season were extended through October in the World Series. Harris has logged 60 or more appearances in four of the past five seasons, all with the Astros.
Update: Max Scherzer is through three innings and the Nats are knotted at 2-2 heading to the fourth. Scherzer at times battled with command against an Astros lineup populated by minor leaguers, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits, walking one and striking out five. The first inning was his biggest challenge, as the Astros used a walk, an infield single, an error on a fielder’s choice grounder, a pair of wild pitches and a dunker down the right field line to take a 2-0 lead.
Austen Williams is on to pitch for the Nats.
Update III: Emilio Bonifácio hit an RBI single in the sixth to extend the lead to 5-2.
Update IV: The Astros scored three times off Aaron Barrett in the eighth to knot the score at 5-5.
Update V: Brandon Snyder led off the bottom of the eighth with a double but was thrown out at the plate on Luis García’s single to right to end the frame. Neither team was able to score in the ninth, and the game ended in a 5-5 tie.