Strasburg and Ross - The Traveling Show:
In his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past weekend, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said rehabbing starters Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross were ready to go out to minor league affiliates in the near future as each progresses in their work from the injuries which have delayed the starts of their respective 2022 campaigns. Rizzo wouldn’t commit to a set timeframe, however.
“I think that we’ve got a calendar put in place for all of our pitchers, Stras and Joe Ross specifically, that we’re going to build them up to a point where they’ll soon be going to an affiliate to do rehab starts,” Rizzo explained. “I’m not sure exactly where they’re at. I know right now the last time out they threw two innings of a simulated game. Now, obviously, a simulated game is not the same as a minor league rehab game because it’s less competitive and that type of thing, but they’re making progress, which is the important thing and we’re seeing the light at the end where we could soon see these guys go on a rehab assignment and then obviously eventually get here and pitch for us in D.C.”
The first of those two last steps before Strasburg and Ross, barring any setbacks or hiccups, return to the majors, will begin on Tuesday.
“Stephen will be headed to Fredericksburg to start on Tuesday. Joe is going to Double-A to pitch for [Harrisburg] on Tuesday as well,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters before the series finale with the Brewers in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon.
“They both came out of their bullpens doing well, so we’re going to get ready to start them on a rehab assignment.”
“We’re going to try to get them four innings, 60+ pitches,” Martinez added, noting that they want to keep the pitchers on their regular five-day schedule for now (pitching on the same day every five days until they have to eventually move to separate days if/when they’re ready to come back to the majors).
“I think for right now we’ll keep them at that five-day,” he explained. “We know that they’ll have some days off as they progress, so once we get to that point we’ll see how we can maneuver it to where they’re not pitching the same day.”
When one or both of them are ready to return, there will be some decisions to make, but Mr. “Go 1-0 today” doesn’t look too far ahead. Ever.
“For me, it’s still a ways away,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“It’s honestly a good problem to have. If we get Strasburg and Joe Ross back, we’ll have to make some tough decisions later on. But I want these guys to continue to compete. We’ve got some guys who are doing well, and I want them to continue to do that.”
Soto’s ... Slump? And He’s Chasing?:
Juan Soto went 0 for 3 with a walk on Saturday night, leaving him 2 for 20 (.100/.280/.150) over his previous six games, taking him from a .268/.404/.512 line on 5/14 to .245/.387/.463 in 181 plate appearances overall this season before the finale in Milwaukee on Sunday.
“I’ve been feeling kind of weird,” Soto told reporters, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato on Saturday night:
“I’ve been working a lot on my swing, trying to figure out what’s going on. It’s pretty tough to get back [to] where I was. I’ve been watching my videos and all that stuff, but it is what it is. Right now, I’ve just been up and down. Sometimes I feel good, sometimes I feel weird. But it is what it is.”
“Just try to forget about the results and keep it simple and keep it in one way, try to play baseball, try to enjoy it and see what’s going on,” Soto added.
“We got to get him to stay in the middle of the field,” Martinez said after Saturday’s game, “and not chase.
“Be a little bit more aggressive in the strike zone, but also not get away from who he is and that’s — take his walks and stay in the middle of the field. He hit a ball hard, lined out, but we got to get him to stay in the middle of the field.”
Martinez moved Soto out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup for the series finale in Milwaukee, and he said before the game maybe a change could spark something in the 23-year-old.
“You never know how it shakes out, remember we always talk about you hit 1-2-3-4-5 the first time through the order, and all of a sudden you just become a hitter, right?” he asked rhetorically. “So I want Juan just to relax and go have fun. We looked at some stuff with him and he’s having good at-bats, he really is. The guy hasn’t really gotten hot yet, he’s still got an .850+ OPS. We just got to continue to figure out how we can score runs. We need to start scoring some runs consistently, so this is something that I’m going to try here for a little while and see if it works.”
The Nationals’ offense put up eight runs on 14 hits in an 8-2 win on Sunday, with Soto 1 for 5 with two RBIs in the finale in Milwaukee.
Ruiz No. 2 For Now:
Keibert Ruiz was 6 for 12 (.500/.647/.667) with two doubles, four walks, and two Ks over four games and 17 plate appearances on the Nationals’ road trip to Miami and Milwaukee and 17 for 46 in the month of May (.370/.482/.522) before Davey Martinez made the decision to put the No. 1 catcher in the No. 2 spot in the Nationals’ lineup for the finale with the Brewers.
On the year, Ruiz’s run had him at .292/.357/.389 with eight doubles, a home run, 10 walks, and 13 Ks in 31 games and 126 PAs on the year.
“Keibert is swinging the bat well, but the biggest thing is he’s accepting his walks a little bit better, his on-base percentage is up there in about the .360s, so get someone else up there to try to get on for Juan [Soto],” Martinez told reporters in explaining the decision to put the 23-year-old slugger, who’d hit 2nd all season, in the 3-hole behind Ruiz.
“I mean, that was the biggest thing, kind of extend our lineup a little bit more, and see what happens. If [Ruiz] can get on base — [leadoff man] César [Hernández] and him can him get on base — then you have our big three guys maybe can do something, so ... but Keibert is swinging the bat well so I wanted to get him up at the top.”
Was any consideration given to having Ruiz lead off since he’s getting on base and hitting?
Ruiz had, “... reached base safely in nine of his last 10 plate appearances dating to his last plate appearance (walk) on May 17 at Miami,” as the Nationals highlighted in the pregame notes for Sunday’s finale in Milwaukee, and he’d, “... hit safely in nine of the [last] 13 games and reached safely in 11 of the 13 with a .482 [OBP] and a .522 [SLG] along the way.”
Did Martinez consider it?
“I did... but I still like César up there. César’s hitting the ball, so if we can get César and him going up at the top and then you got those other three behind him with Juan and Cruz and Bell, I think that looks pretty good, so we’ll see what happens.”
Ruiz went 1 for 5 with a run scored and an RBI in the Nationals’ 8-2 win in the finale with the Brewers.