NATIONALS’ ROTATION CHATTER:
Jake Irvin’s six-inning, 88-pitch outing on Saturday got him up to 113 2⁄3 IP on the year in the majors, after the 26-year-old, Nationals’ 2018 4th Round pick threw 22 1⁄3 in the minors early this season, and 103 1⁄3 total in 2022, in his first full year back following 2020’s inactivity due to COVID, and Tommy John surgery in 2021.
With all his history in mind, Washington’s manager Davey Martinez talked after Irvin’s outing against LA in D.C. about what the plan is with the rookie starter going into the final weeks of the ‘23 campaign.
“He’s been really, really good. And he’s building confidence,” Martinez said after Irvin ended the night on Saturday with a 4.20 ERA, a 5.13 FIP, 46 walks (3.64 BB/9), 92 Ks (7.28 K/9), and a .251/.330/.415 line against over a total of 22 starts for the Nationals.
Jake Irvin, Wicked 82mph Curveball. pic.twitter.com/2NQVjW3R9e— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 10, 2023
“I can see the growth in him,” Martinez continued. “He’s attacking the zone. He’s doing everything we’ve asked him to do. He understands what he wants to do. He has a plan. He’s been awesome. This guy — from where we started with him to where he is now, he’s made unbelievable strides. And like I’ve said with all these guys — but him I’m very proud of what he’s been able to do. Hopefully, we can sustain that and he build off of that, he finishes of the season strong, and then next year, he becomes a guy. He’s been good. Six innings, 88 pitches, outstanding.”
Impressed as he’s been with what Irvin’s done so far, he’s one of several starters the club is watching closely down the stretch, monitoring their workloads, before they determine just how far they’re going to let them go this season.
“We’re going to keep an eye on him,” Martinez told reporters.
“We’ve got 5-6 days before he’s out there again, but we’ll run some tests on him, do some measurements on him. We’ll see where he was at during the game today, and we’ll put a plan together.
Jake Irvin's 2Ks in the 6th. pic.twitter.com/fH10wweQV1— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 10, 2023
“But he says he feels really good. He says he feels real good. He’s been working hard, so we’ll see how far we can push him. The big thing is if we can get him another start or two and get those innings up, then for next year, we always talk about the 25%, he should be good to go for the season without no worries.
“But we definitely got to keep an eye on him.”
Martinez talked before Saturday’s game about MacKenzie Gore’s 15-Day IL stint (for blisters on his left hand) as one which could potentially bring the 24-year-old southpaw’s season to an end at 27 starts and 136 1⁄3 IP.
The sixth-year skipper wasn’t ready to close the book on Gore’s season just yet, however, but he did suggest it’s possible he’s done for the year.
“At this point in time, I would probably say I’d hate to start him up again. We’re getting close to the innings — honestly, we’re beyond the innings we thought we’d get,” Martinez said.
“But right now, I’m not going to rule anything out. Just give me a few days and I want to sit down and have a conversation with him. But I think he’ll be shut down.”
MacKenzie Gore, Nasty 89mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/HkN1668uXR— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 2, 2023
Since he wasn’t ruling out Gore’s return, he wasn’t ready to discuss the plans for his rotation down the stretch at that point.
”We’ll see,” he said. “I’m going to sit down with [GM Mike Rizzo] and [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey and go over the game plan in the next couple days, see where we’re at, so we got — like I said before, we got to keep an eye on Jake, I want to watch Josiah [Gray], you know, so and [Joan] Adon, who’s — he just takes the ball whenever, but he’s still a young guy so we want to keep an eye on him as well, but he’s thrown the ball a lot better for me since we had him last year, and every time he’s come up it seems like he seems like he’s gained a lot more confidence, so that’s a good thing.”
Before Sunday’s game, the Nationals’ starters for this week’s series in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park were announced, and Gray’s name was not listed on Wednesday night, on what would be five days’ rest, with the right-hander listed as the starter in the finale on Thursday afternoon, with Wednesday’s still TBA.
Gray’s last outing was on September 3rd, so he’ll be on extended rest.
Josiah Gray, Wicked 83mph Breaking Ball. pic.twitter.com/A5JD5uzQjq— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 1, 2023
“As we all know, he’s our All-Star,” Martinez said. “And while he’s been struggling a little bit of late, I just want to give him a little break.”
He doesn’t necessarily think it’s the end for Gray though, who’s up to 141 2⁄3 IP in 27 starts, after he threw 148 2⁄3 IP over 28 outings last year.
“I don’t want to shut him down,” Martinez explained. “Last year, we wanted to keep him on schedule to throw about  innings.”
The manager still wasn’t ready to name a starter for Gore’s next turn in the rotation when he spoke on Sunday morning, though a reporter noted that the 24-year-old, 2019 1st Round pick Jackson Rutledge’s scheduled start on Friday didn’t happen because he was scratched without explanation, and a couple days later, in his pregame press conference, Martinez said he still hadn’t gotten one.
“Nothing,” he said. “So, I’ll probably announce something — probably not tomorrow, but the next day [Tuesday].”
So, he didn’t inquire about Rutledge getting scratched at Triple-A?
“Yeah, I didn’t find out. After all day yesterday,” with the rain delays and extra innings, “I’m worried about our guys today.”