After leaning on his bullpen for 4 2⁄3 innings in last night’s 12-5 loss to St. Louis, Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez cautioned that if things didn’t improve in terms of the length their starters are giving them, things could get ugly quick in Washington.
“Our bullpen right now, and once again, may I add, those guys come in and they did a great job for us again, but they’re getting taxed,” Martinez said.
“They’re pitching way, way too much. We definitely got to keep an eye on these guys or we won’t have a bullpen.
“We got to make sure we keep an eye on these guys and get some length out of our starters.”
Before the second of three with the Cardinals in D.C., the Nationals made a move to get a fresh arm up in the bullpen.
Ryne Harper, who was called up this week and threw three innings total over back-to-back nights, was sent back to the club’s Alternate Training Site in Fredericksburg, Virginia, while the Nationals called up 23-year-old right-hander Steven Fuentes, who’ll be making his MLB debut when/if he gets in a game.
“Steven gives us some length,” Martinez explained after the latest moves were announced.
“He’s done well. He threw well his last outing. He’s been starting down there, he’s stretched out, so he gives us a little bit more length, a fresh arm, gives us length in the bullpen.”
Given that he has been stretched out as a potential starter, how will Fuentes, who made 23 overall appearances, and 11 starts in 2019, posting a combined 2.23 ERA, 22 walks, and 89 Ks in a total of 80 2⁄3 IP between High and Double-A, be used while he is up in the majors for the Nationals?
“Obviously he’s got a routine, because he’s been starting, but we’ll get him warmed up properly and put him in the game,” Martinez said.
“I mean, we understand that he’s been starting down there, so we want to make sure that he gets his proper warm-ups before we put him in the game. I talked to him, he’s very excited to be here. He’s a 23-year-old kid, he’s got really good stuff, he’s a strike thrower, he’s always around the zone, so I’m looking forward to watching him pitch.”
In MLB Pipeline’s scouting report on the right-hander, they note that Fuentes, who signed out of Panama for $35,000 in 2013, “... got ground balls on 53.6[%] of his batted balls in 2019, the fourth-highest rate among Nats’ farmhands with at least 80 innings,” so he fits in with the sort of pitchers GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office seem to like.
Fuentes was ranked 22nd on MLB Pipeline’s list of the top prospects in the organization for 2021.
What stood out for Martinez in watching Fuentes?
“The biggest thing for me is like I said, he’s always around the strike zone. He’s got a two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball and a really good changeup. Really good changeup. I just want him to go out there, when he gets an opportunity to pitch, just go out there, relax and utilize all his pitches. I told him, ‘Don’t change a thing because you’re here. Just throw strikes, let your defense play, and just get outs for us.”