WASHINGTON – The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people in different ways – and that includes minor league pitchers with the Nationals.
During the shutdown that began in March, Steven Fuentes had very few options to work out, let alone pitch.
“He is from Panama and was home during the pandemic and very restricted,” player development pitching coordinator Brad Holman told Federal Baseball on Friday.
“He often could not come out of his house. Actually he could have been arrested” if found by authorities more than a mile radius from his house.
A right-hander, Fuentes, 23, has been in the Nationals’ system since 2014.
He made it to Double-A for the first time last season, going 5-4 with a 2.69 ERA in 15 games with 11 starts for the Harrisburg Senators. Fuentes also pitched last season for high Single-A Potomac, and he allowed just one homer in 80.2 innings last season.
In his pro career, he has yielded just 16 homers in 358 innings.
“He is a sinker-slider guy,” Holman said. “He has to trust his fastball. He tends to gravitate to his slider and changeup. The fastball is not his primary pitch, at least the way he pitches anyway. He is doing better with it.”
Fuentes was one of two starting pitchers on Friday at the alternate site in an intrasquad game. The other starter was Tyler Eppler, who allowed just one run in six innings.
Another pitcher who is part of the 60-player pool is Jake Irvin, a fourth-round pick in 2018 by the Nationals out of the University of Oklahoma.
He was 8-8, 3.79 in 25 starts last year for the low Single-A Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League.
Irvin began his pro career in the Gulf Coast League and with Auburn in the New York-Penn League in 2018.
“He went home early in the camp, he had some soreness in his elbow,” Holman said. “There was really no need to keep him here. He is a huge talent. Early on, he was throwing the ball well. He actually got an outing with the Major League club early on in D.C. during the preseason (Summer Camp). He throws 97 and really showed well. I was excited to see more of him on a consistent basis, but he had some elbow soreness.”