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Washington Nationals news & notes: MacKenzie Gore will not debut for Nats this season + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Friday...

Gore’s Nats Debut ... in 2023?:

In his visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this Wednesday, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told the Junkies he thought lefty MacKenzie Gore, barring any setbacks or a hiccup in his between-starts work, would likely be able to make his debut with the Nats this season, in one of the final few games.

“I would expect to see him sometime in one of the last handful of games down the stretch here,” Rizzo said.

Gore, 23, is a 2017 1st Round pick by the San Diego Padres, acquired by the Nationals in the trade deadline deal for Juan Soto and Josh Bell back on August 2nd. Gore made his major league debut in mid-April this season, posting a 4.50 ERA, a 4.12 FIP, 37 walks (4.76 BB/9), 72 Ks (9.26 K/9), and a .248/.346/.376 line against in 16 games, 13 starts, and 70 IP for the Friars before he landed on the IL with left elbow inflammation right before the deadline (on July 25th).

Gore made four starts and got up to 72 pitches in 3 23 IP last time out, close enough to the 5/75 his new club wanted to see before bringing him up to start in the majors again, and if he did take a turn in the rotation, Nats’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters this week, he didn’t want to limit the left-hander.

“If he starts, I want him to start, and I don’t want to put any limitations on him,” the fifth-year skipper explained. “We’ll keep an eye on him, and we’ll monitor how long he’s going to go, and we’ll have conversations every inning with him. But the thing for me is that he is pitching, he is in the mound, he is competing, and everything so far has gone right, you know, except for the fact that it is taking him a little longer to bounce back in that third or fourth inning, and that will come.

“I’m not too worried about that,” Martinez added. “So, for me it’s just like I said, making sure that when he leaves this season he feels completely healthy, and we can get him going and get him ready for Spring Training.”

In the end, the fact Gore was able to get back on the mound, and get some work in, and is still feeling good right now, was enough for the Nationals.

Martinez announced before their series opener with the Phillies on Friday the club made the decision the southpaw is done for the year.

“My discussion with him, and my discussion with [Rizzo] is that he won’t pitch the rest of this year,” Martinez said.

“We’re going to — we liked what he’s done in the starts in the minor leagues, so rather than go out there, especially with the uncertainties of what’s going [with the weather], we’re going to get him started on his winter program and get him on a strengthening program, and get him on a stamina program. So he’s going to be working with our trainers. Because he’s new to all this stuff and what we try to do this winter, so we want to get him started here right away.”

Gore showed the Nationals he was healthy in the rehab outings, and Martinez wanted him to know the club felt it was good enough for this year.

“I told him, I said, ‘Look, your velo was good, your arm felt good, your body felt good,’” the manager said. “‘I know you said you got to a point where you felt a little fatigued towards the end, but for me that’s fine.’ And I explained the whole thing about the whole ‘going through Spring Training’ but his arm, he said, ‘My arm feels great.’ And I said, ‘Well that’s perfect. That’s what we wanted to know.’ So having him feel good, and having Cade [Cavalli] throwing now, and he says he feels great, so having those guys get ready for the winter and be ready to go in Spring Training is a plus-plus for us, but I’m excited that he felt good, so I told him, I said, ‘Look, for me, that’s good enough. When we started this and started your rehab stuff, that’s the point we wanted to get to. For me, if it was something different – if we didn’t have enough pitchers, or whatever, which we do – it would be a different conversation.’ But I don’t want to push it. I think we’re in a good spot right now.”

Gore was determined to get on the mound for his new big league club this season, but with the time left, and with his endurance in his outings an issue, the Nats are going the cautious route.

“He wants to compete and he’s a gamer,” Martinez said.

“He was frustrated because he wanted to show us why we traded for him. But I told him, I said, ‘We already know why we traded for you. Our job is to get you healthy and get you ready for next year now.’ And I said, ‘You’re going to pitch a lot for us. So I’m not overly-concerned. Don’t worry about what I think of you. I think highly of you, and I think you’re going to have a really good career for us. So let’s just get you ready for spring.’’’

But Gray … May Not Be Done?:

So, with Josiah Gray, in his first full MLB season, and at a career-high in innings pitched as a professional, it seemed like his six-inning, 85-pitch outing, which left him at 148 23 IP on the year, would be it for the 24-year-old, with the Nationals trying to manage his workload and get him through the end of the schedule.

But … he did look pretty good out there in his appearance against the postseason-bound Atlanta Braves, giving up two hits, two walks, and one earned run in the start.

And then his manager said this when asked if Gray reached his limit for 2022...

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

“He’s making it tough,” Martinez sort-of joked. “He really is. Because he wants to finish the season. So we’ll see how he’s doing in the next couple days. These next couple days are going to be rough [weather-wise]. We don’t know what’s going to happen. So, we’ll see what transpires. Hopefully the weather holds off, we play normally and then — but we’ll see, and for him, I’m going to see how he feels, I mean, he worked really hard all year long to get right, to stay right, and stay healthy.”

“Today he threw the ball exceptionally well,” Martinez added. “His velo was up there to 96, so he’s pushing the envelope a little bit. So, we’ll see. We’ll see. Like I said, we got to think about the big picture, but we also don’t want him to be frustrated because he didn’t finish the season, so we’ll have another conversation here this week.”

Nationals’ Minor League Award Winners:

Harvey’s Role:

Hunter Harvey, 27, went on the IL back on April 21st with a right pronator strain, but got back on the mound in the majors by mid-July, and in 35 games and 35 13 IP before the series opener against the Phillies on Friday, the hard-throwing righty had a 2.80 ERA, a 2.15 FIP, 11 walks (2.80 BB/9), 40 Ks (10.19 K/9), and a .250/.301/.359 line against working out of the Nats’ bullpen.

Harvey, a 2013 1st Round pick by the Baltimore Orioles, dealt with injuries while with the O’s organization, making 26 appearances in the majors between 2019-2021. Harvey had Tommy John surgery in 2016, and was limited by oblique and lat strains in 2021, before he ended up in D.C., after he was selected off waivers by the San Francisco Giants in November of 2021, and then selected by Washington in March of ‘22.

The son of former big league closer Bryan Harvey, Hunter’s thrown 77.1% four-seam fastballs in his time with the Nationals, averaging 98.3 MPH with the pitch, with hitters posting a .217 AVG against the fastball. He’s mixed in a split-finger (14.9%, .250 BAA), and curveball (6.8%, .625 AVG), while throwing a few sinkers and sliders. So, Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez was asked before Friday’s series opener with the Phillies in D.C., where does Harvey fit in the bullpen in the future?

“I hate to put any spots on these guys right now, because only time will tell,” Martinez said in his pregame press conference yesterday, “but he’s got the stuff to pitch at the back end of the bullpen, whether it’s the 7th, 8th, or 9th inning. He’s a guy where if [Kyle] Finnegan needed a day or even if ‘CJ’ [Carl Edwards, Jr.] gets an opportunity, and he needs a day, that I feel very comfortable having [Harvey] close games for us,” though the reliever did blow the one save opportunity he did get earlier this season.

But overall, Martinez said, he’s been really impressed with the growth from Harvey.

MLB: SEP 13 Orioles at Nationals Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“[Harvey] is another guy that really got that confidence towards the end and really feels like he can go out there and get big outs for us,” the manager said, “but I think the back end of the bullpen is going to be where he’s at. I mean, like I said, he’s learned a lot from his dad already. How to be that guy. I mean, he’s got ice in his veins. He doesn’t really care about much other than to get guys out.

“So nothing seems to really bother him, and when he doesn’t get a guy out, he gets really frustrated and he always tells me, ‘Hey, put me back out there, I want him again.’ And I said, ‘Alright, you’ll get your chance, believe me.’”

The important thing, Martinez noted, while acknowledging the IL stint in April, is Harvey was able to get through the season mostly healthy after all the injury issues early in his career.

“That was huge,” Martinez said. “And that’s something that — I always say that we have the best medical staff in baseball, and I mean that. They get these guys ready, and the players actually have mentioned to me that those guys have been great. And that was it. We felt like we had something if we could keep [Harvey] on the field, and we did that. And I’m proud of him because he put the work in to keep himself ready. So, hopefully he gets stronger this winter. They gave him a lot of different exercises to keep him healthy, so he comes back ready to go.”