The Nationals optioned Wander Suero to Triple-A Rochester this afternoon, demoting the struggling reliever in hopes of getting him straightened out after a series of late-inning meltdowns that culminated with a blown save Monday night.
Suero was one of two players removed from the active roster prior to tonight’s game, joining catcher René Rivera, who was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right elbow contusion. To fill those spots, the Nationals called up just-acquired catcher Riley Adams and familiar veteran reliever Javy Guerra from Rochester.
Suero’s demotion came hours after he was asked to try to close out a 3-2 win over the Phillies but proceeded to let five runs score while he was on the mound, three of them charged to him in addition to the two runners he inherited from Gabe Klobosits.
It was merely the latest in a string of ragged appearances for the right-hander, who as recently as June 24 owned a 2.95 ERA but in 13 outings since has given up 21 runs and seen his ERA skyrocket to 6.29.
“We talked about it last night, and I just want Suero to go down and kind of re-gather himself a little bit, take a load off his mind,” manager Davey Martinez said in his pregame Zoom session with reporters. “He’ll go down there and he won’t pitch today or tomorrow, but he’ll get back on the mound and start pitching, just kind of get some confidence back and not put so much pressure on himself.”
Even with the Nationals now in rebuilding mode at the big league level, Martinez wants Suero - and Tanner Rainey, who also was optioned to Rochester over the weekend - to focus on improved mechanics and consistent strike-throwing in the minors. He fully expects both to rejoin the major league bullpen later this season.
“I had the same conversation with Rainey,” Martinez said. “‘It’s not like we’re giving up on you. We just need to get you right. When you come back, if you’re pitching well, things can change. I want you guys pitching in high-leverage situations, pitching in the back end of the bullpen. I want to get you comfortable doing that.’ He was in agreement, so he’s going to go down there, work hard and get back here as soon as possible.”
Guerra takes over Suero’s spot in a bullpen that is woefully short on experience after Daniel Hudson and Brad Hand were traded for prospects last week. Kyle Finnegan has assumed de facto closer duties, with newcomers Klobosits and Mason Thompson also being used in high-leverage spots despite their lack of experience.
Guerra, a member of the Nationals’ World Series bullpen who also pitched for them last season, spent most of this year on the minor league IL with an elbow injury. But he recently returned to pitch in seven games for four different affiliates, allowing three runs in 8 2/3 innings.
Today’s other transactions involved a swap of catchers, with Rivera going on the 10-day IL due to an elbow injury that required an MRI. Rivera, who was hit by a pitch during Sunday’s win, is still awaiting word on the results of that exam to determine the extent of the injury.
“He tried to throw today, and he couldn’t do it,” Martinez said. “So we’ll see what happens when the doctor reads his MRI.”
With a choice of newly acquired catchers to call up to replace Rivera, the Nationals went with Adams over Keibert Ruiz, the bigger name who was part of the Max Scherzer-Trea Turner blockbuster trade with the Dodgers. Martinez said the organization wants to give Ruiz a chance to catch every day with Rochester - he’s making his debut tonight - before calling him up.
In the meantime, Adams (who was acquired from the Blue Jays for Hand) will split time in D.C. behind the plate with Tres Barrera.
“We wanted to get Riley up here and let Keibert play every day for now,” Martinez said. “I like what Riley Adams has done. He’s got a lot of pop in his bat. He’ll get an opportunity to split time here with Barrera. He just showed up. I had a conversation with him. Seems like another fine young man. Looking forward to watching him play.”
Adams, who was considered Toronto’s top power-hitting prospect, is likely to start for the Nationals either Wednesday or Thursday.
* Alcides Escobar remains out of the lineup for the fourth straight day with a sore right wrist, but the veteran infielder took batting practice this afternoon and the Nationals are hopeful he’ll be available off the bench tonight and back starting Wednesday.