WASHINGTON - Pat Rice was encouraged after Jackson Rutledge, 22, retired four batters with two strikeouts on August 10 at home against Salem for Single-A Fredericksburg.
The right-hander and first-round pick in 2019 by the Nationals out of a junior college in Texas dealt with minor shoulder problems earlier this season, then made that short outing.
“He looked really good,” Rice, Fredericksburg’s pitching coach, told Federal Baseball on Monday.
But then Rutledge had to deal with blister problems after that August 10 appearance.
Now he appears ready to return, and Rice said Rutledge is slated to start for Fredericksburg today at Salem in southwest Virginia.
“I think we have connected really well,” Rice said of Rutledge, who made 10 starts with two teams in 2019. “His first outing was just short of so-so but there were some things from a mechanical standpoint that I thought, hey, it is something we can fix and fix really fast. His next outing was five shutout innings and he punched out [seven on July 29] and he threw the ball really, really well, and sadly he got a pretty significant blister so we had to stop him again.”
“He took some time off, about 10 days off, then tried to throw again and the blister popped up again,” said Rice, who pitched for Seattle in 1991. “So most of the work we have done is trying to get his blister healed up and it is mostly healed and he is ready to go. Hopefully, he will get in a couple of innings tomorrow. It has almost been a month. It will just be a couple of innings.”
Rutledge has made two starts this year in the Florida Complex League, three starts for Fredericksburg, and four for high Single-A Wilmington.
Overall, he is 3-5 with an ERA of 5.46 in 19 starts this season.
“There are a lot of big-time guys there and you get to watch them and see how they do things,” he told Federal Baseball of his work during Spring Training in February.
“I am just getting my body ready,” Rutledge added. “I feel great right now and I feel ready for the season to get going. I have been throwing a lot, getting my arm ready and throwing off the mound. I am lifting three days a week. My body feels great. I hope to be able to throw a lot of innings this year.”