You would think Washington, D.C. was Seattle, Washington with all of the rain that has disrupted outdoor activities in the region for two summers now. Last night’s game was a wash-out, and the Nationals will go with Stephen Strasburg in this game instead of Erick Fedde who was scheduled to pitch last night. While the Rockies will stick with their right-hander Peter Lambert, the rookie has never faced the Nats before because he just made his MLB debut last month. Tomorrow will be a day/night split doubleheader with the finale of the four-game series on Thursday. The Nationals have not announced who is starting the second game of the doubleheader tomorrow, and it could always be a surprise like Max Scherzer or it could be Fedde — but the team also has the option of calling up a 26th man to start which does not make a lot of sense. Expect manager Dave Martinez to announce the Wednesday evening starter before or after the game today.
Before yesterday’s rainout, the Nationals also made a bunch of roster moves with their usual flair for the dramatic. Manager Dave Martinez announced that Ryan Zimmerman did not have an MRI on Monday and would be moved to Tuesday. He never said that Zim was going back on the 10-day IL, and there was no sighting of a replacement when the beat media walked the clubhouse earlier so the assumptions were typical that the Nats would play a man short on the bench. Not a prudent move since the bench is only a 4-man bench. All of a sudden, the Nats PR published at 4:40 pm five roster moves for the day which showed Andrew Steveson was being recalled from Triple-A Fresno — where he has been raking — and Zim was going to the 10-day IL. That was the right call you would think, but the Nats have been known to “ride” injuries and let the player recover with rest while staying on the roster like they did with Anthony Rendon and his “bruised” elbow which eventually turned into an IL move, and they have actually done it before with Zim and others.
In addition, there were other roster moves and as expected Michael Blazek was being activated to the roster which sent Kyle McGowin packing but expect him back tomorrow as the emergency 26th man for the doubleheader. The Nats also moved reliever Justin Miller to the 60-day IL to make room on the 40-man roster for Blazek. For those who forgot, we wrote two pieces on Blazek which we can re-copy here because he has some tie-ins to the Nationals which is how general manager Mike Rizzo found him in Independent Baseball in Nebraska. It helped that Blazek was reinventing himself and sharpened his fastball and velocity and changing the batter’s eye level with a four-seam fastball he has been dotting at the top of the zone which is a key pitch to thwart the launch angle batters.
“It was like, ‘Whoa. Maybe I don’t have to throw the sinker every single time. Maybe I can just ride a four-seamer in there or mix a pitch up in certain locations,’ ” Blazek said. “It’s still a work in progress, but it’s pretty interesting.”
Two months ago, Michael Blazek was playing in independent baseball for the Lincoln Saltdogs in Nebraska, and independent baseball not only does not pay much — it is also a place where most baseball dreams fade away. Fortunately for Blazek, his agent Kevin Kohler has done prior business with G.M. Mike Rizzo signing Justin Miller and All-Star Brandon Kintzler, and relationships matter. When Kohler sent Rizzo a message back in May about Blazek, they signed a minor league deal. The rest was on Blazek who figured out his game in July and received high marks from Randy Knorr and pitching coach Brad Holman with Triple-A Fresno.
Baseball is certainly a game of redemption. It was two years ago that Blazek played a big part in Nats history when he was a starter for the Brewers and was the pitcher who gave up the four consecutive home runs to Brian Goodwin, Wilmer Difo, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. Of the 19 home runs that Blazek had surrendered in his career, the Nats got him for 7 dingers and basically ended his MLB career as the Brewers sent him packing after that game, and he was out with an injury for all of 2018. Now Blazek needs to replicate what he has done for the Nats at Triple-A Fresno this month with no home runs given up and zero walks.
While the timing of bringing up both Stevenson and Blazek nearly a week before the trade deadline is a bit unusual in some respects, but makes a lot of sense in others. Clearly, it is an opportunity for both of these players. Rizzo wants to see what Blazek can do for the big league club before final decisions are made on trades for the bullpen. Surviving the Pacific Coast League in itself is an accomplishment for a pitcher, and for a hitter like Stevenson, he was pounding the ball. Confidence will do wonders for you.
“We thought right now would be a good time to get [Blazek] while he was pitching really well,” Martinez said. “Here’s an experienced guy who’s pitched in the sixth, seventh, eighth inning before.”
With Javy Guerra struggling again, Blazek could be a righty that Martinez could go to for some high leverage at-bats. The rain-out gave the Nats another day to rest Wander Suero, Fernando Rodney, Sean Doolittle, and Tanner Rainey who all got Sunday off and coupled with yesterday became a nice two-day break, but with a doubleheader looming tomorrow, you need fresh arms. Blazek is also three years younger than the 33 year old Guerra, and less miles on the arm’s odometer is usually a good thing unless you talk to Fernando Rodney who wants to pitch most days.
Colorado Rockies at Washington Nationals
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN, AT&T Sportsnet Rockie Mountains, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® ( Streaming Internet 869)
Line-up subject to change (without notice):