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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Tanner Rainey; GM Mike Rizzo talks reboot vs rebuild + more...

Highlights from the Nationals’ media availability on Wednesday in D.C.

New Bullpen Roles?:

Tyler Clippard, the 37-year-old veteran, was called up for the first time this season between the first and second games of yesterday’s doubleheader with with the Seattle Mariners. It’s unfortunate the opportunity for Clippard was created by an injury to closer Tanner Rainey, who went on the 60-Day IL with a sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

The roster moves came after Davey Martinez spoke with reporters following the first of two losses, so he didn’t comment on Rainey’s injury before the nightcap, but he did discuss the work his relievers did in the day half of the twin bill.

Hunter Harvey, Mason Thompson, and Corey Abbott combined for three scoreless innings on 30 pitches after Josiah Gray went five innings against the Mariners, and they got things to the eighth efficiently before Abbott gave up two hits, one a home run, in the ninth.

Seattle Mariners v Washington Nationals - Game One Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

“Really good,” Martinez said when asked about the job the relief corps did after taking over for Gray. “I was really impressed by Harvey. Thompson has been throwing the ball well.”

Both of them were reinstated from the IL in recent weeks, while Abbott was called up as the 27th man for the doubleheader in D.C., and returned to Triple-A afterwards.

“Those guys, like I said, these guys continue to throw the ball like that, I think they’re a big part of our future moving forward,” Martinez continued. “Harvey made some really good corrections with his mechanics that we talked about, staying on his legs a little better, and he actually made a comment that when he does that he doesn’t feel his arm working as hard as it used to before, but he was really good, and Thompson, since he’s been back, he’s been really good. So it was good to see these guys. And Abbott came in and threw strikes, which we needed him to do, and finished the game for us, and our bullpen, like I said, our bullpen has been pitching well.”

There might be some role changes going forward, with some relievers needing to step it up in Rainey’s absence, since the move to the 60-Day IL doesn’t bode well for the remainder of his 2022 campaign.

“We put him on the IL,” Martinez said of Rainey after another loss in the second of two on the twin bill.

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“He’s got a UCL sprain. He’s going to go see the doctor and we’ll get more information in the next couple days.”

Rainey felt something the day after his last outing, and after waiting to see if there was any improvement, he was sent for an MRI when the issue didn’t improve.

“He wanted to see what it felt like the next day, it didn’t get any better, so we wanted to get him an MRI right away,” Martinez explained.

He acknowledged the initial diagnosis is an obvious reason for concern.

“I’m concerned,” Martinez said.

“When you’re talking about the UCL you’re always concerned. So let’s see what the doctors say, and then we’ll go from there.”

Cavalli’s Okay According To Rizzo:

There were Nationals fans holding their breath after clips of top prospect Cade Cavalli throwing a pitch and motioning to the dugout on Tuesday night in his start for Triple-A Rochester, but he seemed to be looking at an issue with his finger before he left the hill, then his manager, Matt LeCroy told reporters, as quoted by Pickin’ Splinters’ writer Dan Glickman, it wasn’t exactly a blister issue, but an issue with skin on his finger:

“He had a little thing on his finger,” said LeCroy. “It wasn’t really a blister, it was a little small piece of skin that got pulled off of his finger. He wanted to keep going, but we thought it would be best not to. I think we got it at the right time, so I don’t think it’s going to be an issue.”

GM Mike Rizzo, in his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, said much the same, quieting concerns about the 23-year-old, 2020 1st Round pick.

“It’s nothing to worry about,” Rizzo said. “It was some skin ripped off. I think it was a veteran move by Cade to call out the trainers. A lot of guys would have tried to grind it through and maybe become a blister or a cut or something like that.

“But I saw a picture of it late last night, and it doesn’t look like anything much.”

Reboot vs Rebuild:

Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office have stressed since the sell-off of expiring contracts (and a year-plus of Trea Turner) at last July 30th’s trade deadline, about all the moves they’ve made being part an organization “reboot”, not a rebuild, which the club hopes will be a relatively quick process of developing the talent in the organization while supplementing it through the draft and future trades. The product in the big leagues hasn’t been easy to watch over the first few months of the first year of the reboot, but Rizzo talked at length with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday about why he remains confident the process is going to produce a championship-caliber team sooner than the 5-6 years a rebuild might take.

“We certainly hope not,” Rizzo said of the possibility of it taking 5-6 years to start getting back in the mix for the postseason picture. “That’s not the blueprint or the plan.”

“Again, I harken back to we’ve done this before,” he continued.

“Just look back at the short history of the Washington Nationals and you can see in 2009 where we were and then where we ended up in 2012.

“So we have a track record and a history and a blueprint of how to do this, how to turn it around in a relatively quick manner and compete for championships.”

Rizzo took over in ‘09, they made the postseason for the first time in 2012, won the NL East in ‘12, ‘14, ‘16, and ‘17, losing in the NLDS each time, then won the 2019 NL Wild Card game, and went on to win it all in ‘19, bringing the World Series championship back to D.C. for the first time since 1924.

“Don’t forget, after those handful of lean years, we went on an 11-year run of competing for championships,” Rizzo continued, “where we won four divisions, a Wild Card [Game], and a World Series championship, so we know how to do this thing, we’ve done it before, we’re going to do it again, and it’s — all the things that I see from fans that I interact with at the ballpark or in my neighborhood, or what people tell me that’s being said online, is I think people get it.

“I think that they understand this is a reboot year. We don’t call it a rebuild, because a rebuild is a 5-6 year process. I think this is a shorter reboot, and I think that we’ve shown in the past that we know how to do these things, and I think you see the short successes that we’ve had here, even in 2022 right now, where you’ve got a handful of good, young players at the big league level, you’ve got a minor league system that is playing extremely well and [playing] competitive games.

“We’ve gone from last year I think we were at a .390 winning percentage, to this year we’re playing at a .520 winning percentage pace, and you’ve got good, young players that are impact-type players at the higher parts of your minor leagues, and a system that’s really, really stacked at the A-ball and High-A level, which is important to our timeline, because when you look at the team in Fredericksburg and Wilmington, they’re playing great baseball and it’s fun to see those young kids that are 20-21 years old and really taking that next step with the names of Brady House, and [Jackson] Rutledge, and [Jeremy] De La Rosa, and those are the next guys you’re going to hear about in the very near future [and] that are going to be guys you’re going to be talking them in the same way you talk about the [Anthony] Rendons and the [Bryce] Harpers, and the [Ryan] Zimmermans.”