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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on handling Josiah Gray carefully; roster moves for arms; Juan Soto sitting

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

No Gray Tuesday:

Josiah Gray was hot. He’d warmed up in preparation for the first pitch of the series opener with Atlanta in the nation’s capital, but a storm cell popped up over Nationals Park just as the game was set to start, and an hour and thirty-five-ish minutes later the teams took the field and began the first of three in D.C.

But Gray didn’t come out to the mound. Shortly before first pitch, Erasmo Ramírez, the Nats’ 32-year-old reliever, was announced as the “opener”, but it wasn’t until after the 9-5 loss to the Nationals’ NL East rivals that manager Davey Martinez shared his thinking in not sending the 24-year-old Gray out to there after the delay.

“We felt like [Gray] was fully warmed,” Martinez explained. “He came out of the gate, they told us they were going to put the tarp on, he sat for a very, very long time, and I’m not going to do that to him. He was in uncharted waters right there, so I decided after an hour and a half that we weren’t going to send him out, and he was good. He was very uneasy throughout the process because he didn’t know what to expect, and like I said, that’s uncharted waters for a young kid like that. And he’s been pitching well, so we’ll push him back, we’ll treat this as a bullpen day, and then I’m going to see how he feels tomorrow and then we’ll make a decision when he’s going to start again.”

Colorado Rockies v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Ramírez, he added, was essentially his only choice when it came to picking an opener.

“We didn’t have many options. Let’s put it that way,” Martinez said after Ramírez went three innings on 54 pitches, giving up six hits (three homers), two walks, and six earned runs.

“I had the back end of the bullpen guys. We had a lot of guys throw here in the last couple days, I thought Erasmo could give us some length, and he really did, and I thanked him for it because it’s a tough situation. Twenty minutes before the game you’re getting told you’re going to start.

“But he gave us everything he had, so I appreciate it. But it was tough. I made the call to not pitch [Josiah], and I think I made the right call.”

He also said he wouldn’t just push Gray back a day for the second game with the Braves.

“Like I said, he got hot. He threw, I think 37 pitches in the bullpen. And he was hot, ready to go, so...”

Asked if he thought the club would need to add/replace some arms in the bullpen, with all the games coming up and after what they’d been through in the last few, Martinez said he and the Nationals’ brass would talk about what they needed to do in terms of roster moves.

“We are going to discuss that for about the next hour or so,” he said.

Before the second of three with the Braves in D.C., the Nationals announced the following roster moves:

Roster Moves Explained:

Davey Martinez talked before the second game of the series last night about the club’s thinking in making the moves they made.

Stephen Strasburg officially went on the IL after he was scratched from last night’s start with what the team described as a “stress reaction of the ribs” which is apparently tied to the surgery he had for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome last summer.

Since the Nats went with a bullpen game on Monday night, they needed reinforcements for the relief corps, so they sent Jordan Weems (who’d thrown two innings on 42 pitches in the series opener) down to Triple-A, designated Dee Strange-Gordon for assignment, and got a couple of arms up in Francisco Pérez and Reed Garrett.

Colorado Rockies v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

“Yeah, we needed pitching,” Martinez said. “Our bullpen is thin right now, so both these guys can give us multiple innings, which is nice. And you guys have seen Francisco before, but Reed has been throwing the ball well. He’s been pitching in the back end of the bullpen down in Rochester, and he’s got a good, live fastball, good slider, good splitter. We needed a fresh arm, so I told him, I said, ‘You’re going to get a chance to pitch, so be ready.”

Strange-Gordon getting DFA’d, Martinez acknowledged, was tough.

“Oh, I love him,” the manager said.

“He was awesome. He really was. Full of energy. He just was happy to be here, he really was. So, that was a tough one today, talking to him, but as I always say, selfishly, if you don’t get a job somewhere else, we’d love to have him back, but I think he can help out a lot of teams, so we’ll see what happens.”

Soto Finally Sits:

Juan Soto started in each of the Nationals’ first 63 games this season, struggling at times in a Juan-Soto-struggling kind of way ... (... as in Soto still led MLB hitters in walks going into last night’s game, and was ranked 5th in OBP (.378), 11th in wOBA (.368), and 11th in wRC+ (136) as the Nationals highlighted in their pregame notes last night) ... so when he banged his knee up slipping in the dugout and hitting it against the bench, his manager saw it as an opportunity to finally tell the 22-year-old to take a night off.

Milwaukee Brewers v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

“He’s okay,” Martinez said before last night’s game. “He’s banged up a little bit. But I think with the knee — I think it was a good day to give him a day off. I mean, we got a lot of games coming up this weekend. He hasn’t a day off yet all year, so I wanted to give him a day.”

The decision, he said, was made before Soto showed up at the park, so it wasn’t in reaction to the issue being worse than expected or anything like that the fifth-year manager said.

“This morning, after him limping off the field yesterday, I had just decided not to play him and give him a day,” Martinez explained.