In need of a starter following the announcement that Joe Ross suffered a full thickness tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the Washington Nationals called up 33-year-old, veteran starter Edwin Jackson. GM Mike Rizzo talked on Monday about the options within the organization and what the injury to Ross might mean for future plans regarding the rotation.
After Sunday’s deal for relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, Rizzo, asked by Jim Bowden and Craig Mish on Sirius/XM’s Fantasy Baseball what other needs might have to be addressed before the non-waiver deadline, talked about the starting depth and the depth in organization overall that has allowed the Nationals to battle through all the injury issues they’ve encountered this season.
“With Joe Ross going down,” Rizzo said, “we’re going to give Edwin Jackson a chance to pitch Tuesday and see where he’s at in his career, and hopefully — he’s pitched extremely well for us in Triple-A — and hopefully he can gives us a couple of really good starts and we won’t have the need to go and get ourselves a starting pitcher at the deadline, but that’s always a possibility and there are a lot of things that we could do to kind of help us a little bit on the fringes of the roster.”
The rotation isn’t the only part of Washington’s roster that’s been affected by injury issues of course.
“Don’t forget, we’re without four key starting offensive players for us — we’ve played most of the year without Adam Eaton, and Jayson Werth, and then Trea Turner went down and then Michael Taylor went down,” Rizzo explained, “so we’re really proud of the depth that we’ve created here, and with the core middle of our lineup playing extremely well we’re kind of able to sustain these major, major injuries on our position players.”
Adding Maddon and Doolittle to the mix in the bullpen helped address what’s been the one glaring issue on the NL East-leading Nationals’ roster, though Rizzo said they could continue to look for deals for additional relievers, but even without another trade, the Nats could get some help in the bullpen in the near future.
“We’ve got three bullpen guys that we were counting on at the beginning of the season that we could possibly get back at some time in the beginning of August in Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover, so we’re hoping that if [it’s] not the trade deadline [that] gives us some help, that some of our guys will get healthy and give us some help and if you get those guys back healthy, those are good acquisitions at the trade deadline to replenish your lineup and to make yourself deeper and more dangerous in the playoffs.”
Rizzo also talked about some other in-house options that could help the Nationals late this season when he was asked about prospects in the system that could play a role at some point, if a need arises, or when rosters expand, including the organization’s top pitching prospect.
“Erick [Fedde] has been pitching extremely well,” Rizzo said, though the 24-year-old is still in the process of stretching back out after he was moved into a relief role so he would already be used to the bullpen if he’s needed there in the majors.
“We moved him up to Triple-A, we put him in the bullpen for a short period of time to get him acclimated to being a relief pitcher because he’s never done it before, but first and foremost it was to control his innings,” Rizzo explained.
“He’s under a Tommy John protocol, he’s on an innings limit this year and we’ll protect him as we do all of our pitchers, so to slow down his pitching clock we put him in the bullpen and controlled his innings. We’re ramping him back up and stretching him back out as a starter, he’s been up to 75 pitches now in Triple-A through four shutout innings in a start last time out, so he’s getting his feet wet at the Triple-A level.
[ed. note - “Rizzo was speaking extemporaneously, so not to get all technical, but Fedde tossed three scoreless in his next-to-last start, on 37 pitches, and gave up a run over 3 2⁄3 in his third outing after returning to starting, throwing 61 pitches, though he may have thrown more in the bullpen or something afterward to get to 75.”]
“There’s always a possibility that if we need to go and grab him in a time of need that we would do so,” Rizzo continued.
“We think he’s that close to being ready, he’s got the make-up to do it, to make the jump to the big leagues and he’s always a possibility.
“We’ve got several other outfield players that if need be due to injuries we could go grab. [Andrew] Stevenson has been great for us in Triple-A since he’s been brought up and got comfortable there, he’s always an option, and Rafael Bautista is getting over a hamstring injury [and] also could impact us in September.”