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Washington Nationals news & notes: Josiah Gray out early in Nationals’ 6-3 loss to Blue Jays...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ series opener with the Blue Jays in Toronto...


“Josiah [Gray] wasn’t real sharp, but he made pitches when he had to, gave us six strong innings,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters after Washington’s starter walked five but held New York Yankees’ hitters to a run on one hit (a solo homer) in a 2-1 victory in the Bronx.

The fact Gray was as successful as he was in the outing in spite of the fact he threw more balls than strikes was a sign, the manager said, just how good the starter’s arsenal is now.

“To me that’s a testament to how good his stuff is,” Martinez explained. “But he made pitches when he had to, that’s the key. He walked guys, but he made some key pitches when he needed to.

“And he knows. We talk all the time that he’s got to clean some things up, but he competes.

“He competes and he gives you everything he has.”

“I battled command, obviously, today. And my stuff wasn’t great,” Gray told reporters, as quoted after the outing by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “But I was able to get out of jams.

“I’ve got to get back to the drawing board, continue to pound the strike zone.”

Gray, who took the mound with a 1-0 lead, walked two batters and gave up a two-out, base-loading, infield single in the bottom of the first inning of last night’s series opener with the Blue Jays in Toronto, CA but a fly to left-center field got the Nationals’ starter out of a long-ish 23-pitch frame unscathed.

The righty was up to 51 pitches on the night, trailing 3-1 after Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. hit a 93 MPH first-pitch fastball up in the zone 392 ft to right-center for a two-run single which put the home team up by two after they’d rallied to tie it with a couple walks and an RBI single earlier in the inning. Gray’s 59th pitch, a full-count slider to Davis Schneider, was lined out to right field to drive Guerrero, Jr. in and make it 4-1, and he was up to 63 pitches before he got out of the second.

His manager apparently thought that was enough, because he went to the pen in the home-half of the third.

Josiah Gray’s Line: 2.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 2 Ks, 63 P, 36 S, 0/4 GO/FO.

“[Gray] threw 40 pitches that [second] inning, and I thought that was plenty,” Martinez told reporters after the club’s 6-3 loss to the Jays.

“He looked like he was struggling a little bit with his mechanics, — physically, I think he’s fine, mentally — and he was forcing a lot of pitches, so to me that’s just — I didn’t want to send him back out there.”

What did the manager see in Gray’s mechanics?

“He was just flying open really bad,” Martinez said. “Couldn’t stay behind the balls, pushing a lot of balls, his misses were way off, so we’ll talk to him, we’ll look at some film, and we’ll try to get straightened out before his next start.”

MLB: Washington Nationals at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports


Keibert Ruiz started last night’s game against the Blue Jays, easing some concerns after he had his bell rung by a foul pitch in Yankee Stadium, had a visit to the dentist, and was used sparingly in Miami, but the Nationals did still select the contract of 25-year-old Drew Millas, who had been traveling with the team in recent days, before the start of last night’s opener with the Blue Jays in Toronto.

Millas, acquired at the trade deadline in 2021, was the “Best Defensive Catcher” in Oakland’s organization, per Baseball America, before the A’s dealt him to D.C. that season, and as the club noted in a press release on Monday’s move, he, “... boasted the “Best Strike Zone Discipline” in Washington’s Minor League system in 2022, according to Baseball America.”

Nationals v Cardinals spring training Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

In 83 games and 238 plate appearances between Double- and Triple-A in the Nats’ system this season, the switch-hitting catcher put up a combined .291/.390/.442 line, 15 doubles, three triples, and seven home runs before he was called up to the taxi squad and then the big league roster.

Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters before the first off three with the Jays in Rogers Centre, the addition of a third catcher gives him options going forward with Millas, Ruiz, and Riley Adams sharing the catching duties (after Ruiz and Adams had, on occasion, played together in the lineup with one as the DH).

“It isn’t that much different because I had DH’d before and caught the other guy,” Martinez explained. “For me, it’s a lot easier to do now, because he’s here and we got a third catcher. But Millas is also a really good athlete. So he can do a lot of different things here for us.

“Obviously, he’s going to catch – and I want to get him in there to catch too and mix him in every now and then – but he’s a switch-hitter, he’s very athletic. So he’s going to get a chance to do some different things, but he can even pinch hit for us, pinch run, and catch as well. So I’m excited to have all three of those catchers, it gives us a little bit more flexibility behind the plate.”

Ranked 23rd in the organization on MLB Pipeline’s list of the organization’s top prospects, with only 23-year-old Israel Pineda (22) ahead of him among catchers on the list, Millas showed consistent production at both stops in the minors to earn the first promotion up to the majors.

“We knew that he was a good athlete,” Martinez told reporters. “He put some numbers up, he struggled with the consistent part of the game. I think this year, he really honed in on the catching portion of it, calling games better, blocking balls better, but also his hitting. He was very consistent with his hitting throughout getting to Triple-A, so we’re excited to see what he can do here.”

Millas is just the latest, and certainly not the last, young player in the system to come up for a look this season, and Martinez said it’s happening at a big time for the organization, and a next wave of prospects is on the cusp of getting opportunities as well.

“The development part of our minor league system has been really good,” Martinez said.

“Getting these guys, developing them to get them ready for us here, so we’re excited not only now, but for the next group of guys that will come up, and they’re going to come up.

“We’re getting better. I think the expectations that these guys have set right now, is that, ‘Hey, when you come up here, be ready to play. Because we want to win games. We’re not just up here trying to rebuild. We’re trying to compete and win games,’ and they’re playing really well.”

Asked this past Sunday if he and the Nationals’ brass have a good idea who’ll they’ll call up once rosters expand, Martinez said they’d discussed it, but he wasn’t sharing any info right now.

“We’ve been talking about different things, different avenues,” Martinez said.

“We haven’t come up with any real solid conclusions yet, but we’ve definitely been talking about a couple guys that we could bring up, so we’ll see what happens here shortly.”