The Washington Nationals have a 7:05 pm game tonight and will submit their lineup card in about 4-to-5 hours from now. They are expected to make left-handed outfielder/first baseman Travis Blankenhorn official as a September 1 callup, as well as a reliever, most likely Amos Willingham to raise the roster to 28-players. To make room for Blankenhorn, the Nats will need to clear a 40-man roster spot — most likely as a DFA. There was no shocking add-ons through a waiver claim or even a promotion of a top prospect like James Wood.
Just kind of — it is what it is — and you hope what Blankenhorn has accomplished in Triple-A translates to MLB. It has not quite worked out that way for Jake Alu or Jacob Young … yet. It didn’t work out for Derek Hill or Blake Rutherford. The game is much harder than it looks, and most players don’t get much of a chance to prove themselves. You better do it quickly. Both Alu and Young have helped the Nats win games already — but then again, so did Jeter Downs and he was sent back to Triple-A and might be the odd man out in a DFA.
Sometimes it is a matter of a roster crunch, and sometimes it is just simply, “What have you done for me lately?” You could produce for a weeks then hit a slump and become expendable. We were reminded yesterday in an interview with Brandon Kintzler, that it could be a sordid rumor that does you in. The life of players fighting for roster spots are not too glamorous. The pressure is immense when this is your livelihood.
But don’t fret, Young and Alu have shown glimpses, and Carter Kieboom has been looking good in his time so far on the Nats’ 2023 roster. Let’s face it — the team misses Stone Garrett and what he brought to the lineup. His injury changed the math, and you hope someone(s) pick up where he left off in impact. Obviously Blankenhorn hopes he is that guy.
Blankenhorn has all of 29 at-bats to his name in his MLB career that began with a 2020 debut. The 27-year-old journeyman signed as a minor league free agent with the Nats this year, and his .517 slugging percentage stands-out big, as his 23 home runs for Triple-A Rochester is the type of punch this Nats lineup needs. Can it translate to the Majors? That’s the million dollar question. This power surge for Rutherford is the best of his minor league career. Maybe he made some sustainable changes that will make him into the second coming of Joey Meneses circa 2022.
Some players can change. Most cannot. Blankenhorn was a 3rd round draft pick of 2015 but beyond A-ball never really impressed, but perseverance could pay-off for Blankenhorn. Time will tell. This could also be short-lived if the Nats decide to make other moves. Remember, general manager Mike Rizzo could not recall Downs or Rutherford since both were optioned last week and did not spend the required 10-days back in the minors to be recalled again at this point.
As we said yesterday, watch for a player to be pulled from one of the games in progress and sure enough Blankenhorn was pulled mid-game as Don H. immediately DM’d me with the news. Hours later, Jesse Dougherty from the Washington Post heard from sources that Blankenhorn would indeed head to Nats Park.
Seize the opportunity!