Game 22 lineups: Nats vs. Marlins (Lester to start)

The Nationals signed Jon Lester over the winter to be a big part of their rotation, counting on the veteran left-hander to make 30 starts and win big games for them. Tonight, he finally makes his D.C. debut.

Lester, the last of nine Nats players still on the COVID-19 injured list, has been activated and will start tonight’s series opener against the Marlins. It took longer than expected, but after three rehab outings at the alternate training site in Fredericksburg, the 37-year-old is ready to go.

To make room on the active roster for Lester, the Nationals optioned right-hander Steven Fuentes to Fredericksburg. The 23-year-old was promoted 10 days ago, but wound up never making his major league debut. Reliever Luis Avilán, who recently had Tommy John surgery, was transferred to the 60-day IL to clear a spot for Lester on the 40-man roster.

nats-nationals-park-overhead.jpgWhat can the Nationals expect from Lester? He threw 90 pitches over six innings in his most recent start, so his arm should be built up. Obviously, it’s not the same as a big league game, so manager Davey Martinez probably will choose to err on the side of caution with him tonight. But if Lester can turn in five solid innings and give the Nats a chance to win, they’ll gladly take it.

They’ll also gladly take some more offense from a lineup that finally came to life in Dunedin, Fla., earlier this week. They’re still without Juan Soto, of course, and that’s unfortunate because he has terrorized Marlins starter Pablo López in the past (8-for-17, three doubles, two homers, five RBIs). But they’ll have to hope Yadiel Hernandez (now batting third) continues to produce in Soto’s place, and that Trea Turner and company remain hot on what is expected to be another cold and windy evening on South Capitol Street.

MIAMI MARLINS vs. WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 59 degrees, wind 22 mph left field to right field

NATIONALS
SS Trea Turner
2B Josh Harrison
RF Yadiel Hernandez
3B Starlin Castro
1B Josh Bell
LF Kyle Schwarber
C Alex Avila
CF Victor Robles
LHP Jon Lester

MARLINS
SS Miguel Rojas
1B Jesús Aguilar
RF Garrett Cooper
LF Adam Duvall
CF Lewis Brinson
3B Jon Berti
C Sandy León
2B Isan Díaz
RHP Pablo López

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