BOWIE, Maryland – While the Nationals are on the road out west, fans of the team won’t have to travel far to see future Washington players.
The Double-A Harrisburg Senators were set to begin a six-game series on Tuesday night here at Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie, Maryland – about 20 miles from Nationals Park.
“It is exciting to play so close to our big league ballpark,” said Harrisburg manager Tripp Keister, sitting in the stands down the third-base line about three hours before the first pitch. “We have a lot of fans that come and see us, especially the ones that followed a lot of this group from Potomac. There is a lot of familiarity with our two organizations. We play against each other a lot. Yes, this is always a fun series being so close to both big-league stadiums. A lot of fans love the natural rivalry with Baltimore and us.”
Right-hander Ronald Herrera, who has gone at least five innings in all four starts early this season, is slated to start for Harrisburg in the first game against Ryan Watson of the Baysox.
“He is a veteran guy,” Keister said of Herrera, who pitched two games for the Yankees in 2017. “He has really pitched well; it is good to get him back on a routine. He is a veteran guy who has pitched in the big leagues before. He pitches to soft contact.”
The scheduled starters for Harrisburg for the rest of the series are right-hander Richard Guasch on Wednesday at 12:05 p.m.; right-hander Cole Henry on Thursday at 11:05 a.m; right-hander Steve Fuentes on Friday at 7:05 p.m.; lefty Evan Lee on Saturday at 6:35 p.m. and Herrera again on Sunday in the series finale at 1:05 p.m.
Henry has not allowed a run in four starts over 13 innings and has 16 strikeouts with four walks.
“He has pitched really well; his fastball command, he has established to both sides of the plate,” Keister said. “He has had a good mix and hopefully he can build on his good start.”
Adley Rutschman, perhaps the top catching prospect in the minors, got a lot of attention before the game as he begins a rehab assignment with Bowie after being with Single-A Aberdeen.
KJ Harrison, an infielder with Harrisburg, was a junior at Oregon State when Rutschman was a freshman there.
“He was an unbelievable athlete,” Harrison told Federal Baseball before the game Tuesday. “He had all of the tools. He is a great kid.”
Two pitchers from the DMV are slated to start in the series for Bowie: right-hander Zach Peek on Friday and Garrett Stallings on Saturday.
Peek grew up near Lynchburg, Virginia while Stallings was born in Chesapeake, Virginia, and played in college at Tennessee. Peek played at Winthrop in college.
Among those on hand to aid player development was Randy Knorr, a former coach for the Nationals who is now the roving catching coordinator for the club.
He worked with Harrisburg’s catchers in front of the third-base dugout before the Tuesday game on catching pitches from a machine.
The starting catcher for Harrisburg in the first game of the series was Taylor Gushue, who is back in the Washington system after playing in the majors for the Cubs last season.
Taylor Gushue is in the starting lineup here in Bowie for the Harrisburg Senators; he has been working pre-game with other catchers with Randy Knorr, the roving catching coordinator for @Nationals.@federalbaseball pic.twitter.com/m0tj1hnU6C— David Driver (@DaytonVaDriver) May 3, 2022
“He was with us on the way up; I had him in Potomac,” Keister said of Gushue, a native of Florida. “He re-signed with us this year. He has been vital to our young guys, learning the league.
He has taken a leadership role. He is very comfortable here and he has really played well.”
Also expected in Bowie this week is De Jon Watson, the new director of player development for Washington. He was behind the cage during batting practice here on Tuesday as the Senators got in their swings.
The Senators entered the series 12-9 while Bowie was 9-11. Rain is in the forecast for Wednesday morning and again for Friday into Saturday.