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Washington Nationals Minors: Rochester pitchers aim for return to D.C.

While the major league club struggles, Rochester skipper Matt LeCroy is encouraged at Triple-A, while Zach Brzykcy has turned things around at Double-A Harrisburg …

MiLB: APR 07 Rochester Red Wings at Toledo Mud Hens Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The pitching situation with the Nationals is pretty bleak these days.

But Washington and its fans hope the future is brighter down on the farm.

Rochester manager Matt LeCroy hopes that some of his pitchers with limited major league experience can get back to Washington as he grooms younger hurlers such as Cade Cavalli and Cole Henry for a debut in the majors at some point down the road.

Henry has made two starts for Rochester since being promoted from Double-A Harrisburg – June 5 at home against Buffalo and Saturday at St. Paul.

He gave up no runs and three hits in five innings against Buffalo and allowed four runs in three innings versus St. Paul.

“His first outing was about as good as you can get at Triple-A,” LeCroy said of right-hander Henry, one of the top prospects in the Washington system.

“He faced a quality opponent at St. Paul; he has a nice mix of fastballs and breaking balls. The results weren’t as strong.”

Cavalli is slated to start tonight for Rochester with Henry on tap to go tomorrow.

“It is a good test for these guys. Triple-A is a different animal,” LeCroy said.

“Everybody asks about Cavalli; he is in a different situation since he is a starter. I really like the improvements he has made.”

Also at Rochester, veteran reliever Tyler Clippard did not allow a run in his first four outings out of the bullpen this month.

After a rough start, he was 1-0 with an ERA of 2.88 in 24 games through Tuesday, with a WHIP of 1.24.

He has 31 strikeouts in his first 25 innings for Rochester; he has pitched in 803 Major League games.

“It took him about three outings to adjust to the pitch clock and it has made the biggest difference,” LeCroy said. “He is throwing his fastball around 90-91 and changeup is around 77-78. He has command of all pitches; he has always been a fastball-changeup guy but now he has a curveball he mixes in for strikes.”

“I really hope he gets a chance to go up [to Washington] at some point,” the skipper said.

“He is a good leader; he keeps his body ready and in good shape. Hopefully, his name is called. Sometimes it is hard for guys to come down to Triple-A who has been in the major leagues for a long time but he has done a really nice job. I am really, really pleased with where he is at.”

Among position players, veteran outfielder Andrew Stevenson was hitting .292 after getting two hits on Tuesday for the Red Wings.

One pitcher that recently came up to the Nationals from the minors is Reed Garrett, who has ties to the region.

He pitched in college at VMI in Lexington, Virginia under coach Marlin Ikenberry, now the skipper at JMU. Garrett was born in the Richmond area.

Garrett first – and last – pitched in the majors with the Tigers in 2019. He was drafted out of VMI in the 16th round in 2014 by the Rangers.

“He is a power guy; he is upward to 97 to 99,” LeCroy said.

“His fastball is the pitch; secondary he has a split and a slider. That is how he attacked people here. I am happy he got a shot to go up.”

“You dangle the carrot in front of these guys. The door is wide open for these guys if they put the work in for that moment,” the manager added.

Despite allowing three runs in one inning Saturday at St. Paul, reliever Alberto Baldonado (14 games with Washington in 2021) has impressed LeCroy.

“I think he has put himself into a good spot. We saw him last year at the big-league level,” said the former Washington catcher of the pitcher who had an ERA of 4.94 this season through Tuesday.

LeCroy is also encouraged by Patrick Murphy, who spent time with the Nationals earlier this season with six appearances. He had an ERA of 1.84 with the Red Wings through Tuesday.

“Murphy has made some of the biggest strides of anybody; he has started to pound the strike zone with his fastball at 97 to 99,” LeCroy said. “Some of these guys who have spent some time in the big leagues here are starting to gain some confidence and get another shot” in the majors.

Meanwhile at Harrisburg, right-hander Zach Brzykcy has shown a remarkable turnaround this year.

After posting an ERA of 5.20 last year at Single-A Wilmington, the Virginia Tech product was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg earlier this month.

He recorded the last three outs as the Senators beat Richmond 2-1 at home on City Island in Pennsylvania. It was his second save since getting promoted to Harrisburg. Brzykcy did not allow a run with just two hits in his first four outings for Harrisburg.

Overall, he was 7-1 with an ERA of 1.37 in 21 games this year split between Harrisburg and Wilmington prior to start of play on Wednesday.