The Nationals swept the Cubs over the weekend in a high energy trio of wins, and then the team had a scheduled day-off on Monday which seemed to have zapped the momentum leading into yesterday. Put yesterday’s results in the trash can unless you are one of the five players who actually improved their stat lines. One of the great things about baseball is that you have another game today. All five of the NL East teams lost yesterday. With Max Scherzer getting his second start since returning from the IL, he hopes to go deeper into this game and build upon his 4.0 inning, 71-pitch, one run outing in Pittsburgh.
For the Orioles, they send the right-handed Asher Wojciechowski to the mound. The 30-year-old has 21 career starts in the Majors, and the Nats have actually faced him before with good success. There are three Nats with home runs against him, and that trio includes Matt Adams, Juan Soto and Kurt Suzuki. There are seven Nats with a batting average of at least .333 against Wojciechowski. All of that means nothing if the Nats bat like they did last night except for Trea Turner and Victor Robles.
All key injured-list players are now eligible to come off of extended stays on the 10-day IL, but none will today. Per MLB rules, teams can expand roster on Sunday, September 1st, and you can expect that Sean Doolittle, Roenis Elias, and Ryan Zimmerman to all return on that day unless general manager Mike Rizzo has another surprise to do it earlier which does not make a lot of sense as there are only two games after today before the calendar turns to September. Elias and Doolittle have both been throwing and Zimmerman is playing in games with the High-A Potomac Nationals. Doolittle says his throwing arm feels “a lot better” in a conversation with MASN’s Byron Kerr.
“To be honest, I kind of needed a mental break,” Doolittle said. “That two-week stretch there was really rough. All throughout that process I was looking for answers. I was trying to find things and make adjustments, and none of them were working. So, when you are spinning your wheels like that, it’s kind of a really helpless feeling. You are searching for answers, and you don’t really know how to fix it or where that fix is going to come from. So, to be able to press pause and get my body right just helps me a lot mentally as well.”
Doolittle was placed on the IL officially for knee tendinitis, but it is good to hear that his arm is feeling better.
“I’m in a much better place right now,” Doolittle said.
For the Nats number one draft pick in 2018, we reported a while ago that he was shutdown, and last week we tweeted and commented here that Mason Denaburg sought doctor’s opinions on his sore arm and shoulder. There was no listed IL stint for Denaburg, and he has not pitched since August 3rd.
Source tells us that #Nats first round pick in the 2018 draft, Mason Denaburg, recently experienced arm pain and has sought advice from doctors. Denaburg just turned 20 years old and started 4 games in the GCL rookie league.
— Talk Nats ⚾ (@TalkNats2) August 23, 2019
On Mike Rizzo’s weekly appearance on the Sports Junkies radio show, Rizzo was asked about Denaburg’s status, and he kind of danced around the issue.
“He had some arm issues that we were aware of when we took him,” Rizzo said on 106.7 The Sports Junkies. “He is just on a slow pace developmental curve early in his baseball career like we do with most of our High School pitchers.”
While Denaburg is only 20 years old, he needs to get healthy and progress. His stat sheet in his two years with the Nationals is just a total of 20 1/3 innings in the GCL and a 7.52 ERA. The Nats have to start turning some of these pitching prospects into stars in order to stay relevant in the future. Denaburg has the raw tools, but now his health has impeded his progress again.
The bullpen has eight arms when Hunter Strickland returns from his paternity leave, and that number will go to ten when Doolittle and Elias are back. Beyond that, Greg Holland could still figure into the mix although he is not on the 40-man roster. Then there is the curious case of Jeremy Hellickson who is on the 60-day IL. He is on a rehab assignment in the GCL and shortly the Nationals will have to make a decision on him as the minor leagues wraps up for the summer. In order to activate a 60-day IL player, it requires a 40-man move. Rizzo has some tough decisions to make and manager Dave Martinez then has to find his September roster some playing time.
There are 31-games remaining in the season. The math is very clear to project what this team has to do to get to 90 wins and beyond, and it all starts with full team games in every aspect, and that is where this team has been excellent until yesterday when all facets were good except for the offense. Today is a new day, go get ’em Nats!
Baltimore Orioles at Washington Nationals
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN, MASN2 Orioles, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® ( Streaming Internet 869)
Line-up subject to change (without notice):
Trea Turner – SS
Adam Eaton – RF
Anthony Rendon – 3B
Juan Soto – LF
Asdrubal Cabrera – 1B
Kurt Suzuki – C
Brian Dozier – 2B
Victor Robles – CF
Max Scherzer – RHP