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Washington Nationals news & notes: 2018 4th Round pick Jake Irvin gets opportunity and he sticks around...

Notes and quotes on Jake Irvin’s rookie run in the Nationals’ rotation...

Davey Martinez talked to Jake Irvin the day before the Washington Nationals’ 26-year-old, 2018 4th Round pick made his MLB debut so he could go through his usual routine the day of his first outing. The sixth-year manager told the right-hander to do what he’d been doing in the minors on the way up and keep pounding the strike zone and attacking hitters.

“It’s all about throwing in the strike zone,” Martinez said, “… attacking the strike zone. I told him, I said, ‘Look, you had some success down there in the minor leagues, you’ll meet with [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey and the catcher and kind of just stay in attack mode, and try to get early strikes and early swings, but the biggest key is that he throws strikes and tries to get ahead.”

Irvin put up a 3.80 ERA overall in four seasons in the Nats’ system, though he missed the ‘21 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and had a 5.64 ERA and a 5.27 FIP, 4.43 BB/9, and 8.06 K/9 in five starts at Triple-A Rochester early this season before he learned he got the call.

“He was utilizing his fastball,” Martinez said when asked what Irvin did well on his way up, “… but his breaking ball he was landing for strikes, and I think that’s a big key. When he can do that and throw both his fastball, and curveball, and changeup for strikes he’ll be effective.

“He worked on it, he had a really good outing his last outing, so hopefully he continues to do that today.”

“He’s a big, physical pitcher,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies, offering a scouting report on Irvin before he made his debut.

“He’s got good stuff, really been hampered developmentally. He had Tommy John surgery which cost him a year, the COVID season cost him another year. He’s really — at 26 years old — he really has little professional experience, but has progressed to the point where he started the season at Triple-A, he’s got a big fastballs in the mid-90s and slider/change, and we want to see him attack the strike zone today. Throw strikes, make [hitters] put the ball in play, and let the defense do their thing.”

Irvin ended up making 24 starts for the Nationals, posting a 4.61 ERA, a 5.31 FIP, 54 walks, 99 strikeouts, and a .255/.340/.431 line against in 121 IP, with a strong run late in the year which saw him put up a 2.65 ERA, a 4.64 FIP, and a .226/.300/.387 line against in a six-start stretch between early August and early September, before he struggled in back-to-back outings to wrap up his first run in the majors.

Getting through the season healthy-ish* and testing himself against teams like the Atlanta Braves he faced in his final outing gave the righty an opportunity to see where he stood in his development and learn what he needs to improve.

“I think that’s kind of what I’m trying to do right now, is just learn every outing,” Irvin said after what ended up being his final outing, “… especially being in uncharted territory for myself innings-wise, and a bunch of different things right now, trying to learn as much, and soak up as much as I can, but we want to be in the position [the Braves are] in next year. So, trying to learn a lot from that, see the things that they do, but also just continue to make pitches, compete, and learn more about myself and ourselves as we get deeper into the season.”

The fact he still felt good late in the year as he was, Irvin said, was a team effort.

“Our training staff and our weight training staff have both done a really good job helping me get into a good routine and taking care of the body,” the rookie starter explained, “doing the right stuff in-between starts has been pretty good.”

[ed. note - “* = His season effectively ended a few days later when he went on the IL with right ankle tendinitis.”]

“He’s got a foot — his right foot — his ankle is a little swollen,” Martinez explained when he finally declared Irvin’s season over, “... so he’s going to get X-rays, MRIs. I don’t know what transpired, but his foot was pretty swollen.”

“He fought me a little bit. He wanted to finish the season,” Martinez said, as quoted on MASN.

“I told him: ‘You were really good this year. Let’s build off that, and get you ready for next year.”