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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Max Scherzer landing on IL; MLB crackdown on foreign substances + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s wide-ranging pregame Zoom call on Tuesday...

Scherzer To IL Leads To Roster Moves:

In addition to placing Max Scherzer on the 10-Day IL, retroactive to 6/12, with what the club described as “groin inflammation” in a press release, the Washington Nationals announced on Tuesday afternoon they’d, “selected the contract of reliever Justin Miller and designated right-handed pitcher Rogelio Armenteros for assignment.”

Miller, 34, is a familiar face, who pitched for the Nationals in 2018-19, putting up a 3.71 ERA, a 5.05 FIP, 21 walks, and 71 Ks in 68 games and 68 IP. He became a free agent after the ‘19 season, and signed on with Toronto that winter, before being traded to Cincinnati’s Reds in 2020, before he returned to Washington on a minor league deal this past winter.

Before he was called up yesterday, the righty had a 0.55 ERA, four walks, and 29 Ks in 16 13 IP at Triple-A Rochester in Washington’s system.

San Diego Padres v Washington Nationals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

“He was throwing the ball really, really well,” Martinez said when asked why Miller was the choice to come up.

“I think he had a sub-1.00 ERA. But he had a mix of a good fastball and a really good slider, so he deserves to be here right now, and he was the best available, and he’s throwing the ball well so he’s here to help us win.”

As for Armenteros, the 26-year-old, Cuban-born pitcher was selected off waivers from the Houston Astros this winter. He’s dealt with injuries, after entering Spring Training as a dark horse candidate to make the big league rotation, and posted a 5.83 ERA, 19 walks, and 31 strikeouts in seven starts and 29 13 IP at Triple-A Rochester before he was DFA’d yesterday.

Why was he DFA’d?

“One, he couldn’t get healthy,” Martinez told reporters. “We still like him, but he needs to start pitching and pitching the way he’s capable of pitching. His fastball has been down, we got to get his fastball back up. His changeup has always been effective. But we want to see his fastball get back up.

“Hopefully he sticks around with us, we don’t know, but if he does, we’re not going to give up on him if he comes back, but we needed a roster spot right now. I mean, and we needed to get somebody who could help us in the bullpen and like I said, Justin was throwing the ball really well.”

Miller recorded the final two outs of last night’s win, after Patrick Corbin went 8 13 innings.

“He did great,” Martinez said. “Like I said, he threw strikes, he pounded the zone, he got a couple outs for us, so we wanted to get him out there right away. He just got back up and get him out there and get him going.”

Sticky Situation [ed. note - “Oh, God.”]:

As you might have heard, MLB decided to crack down (or enforce the existing rules really) on pitchers using foreign substances that increase grip and spin rate, and in MLB’s stated opinion, created an unfair advantage for hurlers.

You can read all about the changes, the way that umpires will be asked to monitor pitchers, and more HERE.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred released the following statement as part of MLB’s foreign substance enforcement announcement:

“After an extensive process of repeated warnings without effect, gathering information from current and former players and others across the sport, two months of comprehensive data collection, listening to our fans and thoughtful deliberation, I have determined that new enforcement of foreign substances is needed to level the playing field. I understand there’s a history of foreign substances being used on the ball, but what we are seeing today is objectively far different, with much tackier substances being used more frequently than ever before. It has become clear that the use of foreign substance has generally morphed from trying to get a better grip on the ball into something else — an unfair competitive advantage that is creating a lack of action and an uneven playing field.”

Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez’s take on the announcement from MLB? He’d previously said that he’s concerned for the safety of hitters if sticky stuff was banned outright, and he reiterated his opinion Tuesday afternoon, when all but rosin was re-banned.

Chicago Cubs v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images

“Look,” the fourth-year skipper and former big league outfielder began, “MLB is trying to level the playing field, so they’re trying to find some kind of consistent balance for everyone, so you know, as I said before, my biggest concerns is the health of the players, and not really only the batters, but also the pitchers as well. We’re going to have to navigate through this for a few days and really abide by the rules. The rules are the rules, you can’t change that. These guys got to be aware that the only thing that goes on their hand is rosin, and that’s what the rule is. So, you know, we’ll see how it goes. This is going to be an ongoing conversation, I’m sure, with the players, with MLB, but I understand what they’re trying to do, and like I said, it’s just trying to find some consistency and make the game fair for everybody.”

Rays’ starter Tyler Glasnow tied the forced changes/renewed enforcement being instituted mid-season for a partially torn UCL he suffered this week, after he stopped using the mix of sunscreen and rosin he had been using.

Does Martinez see more pitchers struggling as they adjust to the new/old regulations?

“We just got to be aware,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of conversations with individual pitchers and tell them that, ‘Hey, they’re going to crack down on it.’ You saw the memo, it’s going to be — so you got to be careful, and not use anything but rosin, that’s what the rule states. So you’re going to have to go out there and if you need a whole lot of rosin so the ball don’t slip, put the rosin on your hand but that’s all you can use.”

Did the proliferation in pitchers using ever-stickier foreign substances around the league concern the manager?

“I’m kind of up in the air,” Martinez said. “We’ll see how it goes. MLB has done a lot of research on this. The reason why it’s taken so long is because they’ve done so much research, and they really wanted to try to get it right.

“So we’ll see how the game goes here. Obviously, they are going to start Monday, so we’ll see how the game goes from there.”

Quick Hits:

Stephen Strasburg update?: Last we heard, Stephen Strasburg, on the IL with a neck strain after struggling upon returning from right shoulder inflammation, was going to for another look at the shoulder with a specialist. Did he see that specialist yet?

“Strasburg did have a visit with the specialist, he’s going back to see him again, and then we’ll know something more after that.”

As of now, the Nationals and Strasburg are just waiting for the inflammation to calm down.

Hudson’s Elbow?: Daniel Hudson too landed on the IL recently with inflammation in his right elbow. Has he made any progress? Is he doing anything now?

“No, he’s just been doing a lot of strengthening, a lot of work inside with the trainers and stuff, but he hasn’t thrown a ball yet,” Martinez said.

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Austin Voth Throwing Again?: Austin Voth, who was, of course, hit in the face while at the plate during the Nationals’ visit to Citizens Bank Park earlier this month, back on June 6th, was back on the mound in Nationals Park yesterday, throwing a sim game as he works his way back from a broken nose, which required a surgical fix. How did it go?

“Austin Voth threw a sim game today, threw 23 pitches, he threw the ball really, really well,” Martinez said. “So ... he can’t come off [the IL] till after the day off [on Thursday], so he’ll continue to go out there. I want him actually to go out there — he’s going to do some PFPs in the next day or two, and then we’ll go from there.”

When he returns, will Voth go back to the bullpen, which should avoid having him pick up a bat for a while?

“Yeah. I definitely — I spoke to him — he’s definitely going to be in the bullpen again,” the skipper said. “I know that there is going to be some fear if he steps back in the batter’s box. What I really want him to do is get some balls hit back at him, to see how he reacts, but you know, today he faced hitters, there was nothing that indicated that he was afraid or flinching or anything. He was throwing the ball really, really well, so that’s good new for us.”