Notes: Finnegan's support; Rainey setback

March 4th, 2021

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Amid a crowd of blue and orange, two red and white jerseys stood out. Their eyes were glued to a group of pitchers warming up in right field at Clover Park. Turns out, they weren’t just Nationals fans. They were Nationals family.

’s father, Willy, his father’s girlfriend, Kirsten, his aunt, Kathy, and uncle, Eddie, were on hand Thursday afternoon to watch Kyle start against the Mets. Kyle had pitched in Spring Training games in previous years, but he was a Minor Leaguer back then, chasing his big league dreams. He achieved that goal last season when he made his Major League debut on July 25 as a 28-year-old rookie.

“Last year was fun, but it was really stressful because we all love our kids,” Willy said. “To go to Yankee Stadium or to go to the Nats Yard and see them, that would be like a dream true. He gets into the big leagues, and it’s COVID lockdown. So it was stressful.”

This spring, Kyle returned to Nationals camp having established himself as a reliable reliever. Willy flew from Houston to attend the game in Port St. Lucie, where Kyle got the nod after Jon Lester was taken out of the starting lineup to undergo thyroid gland removal surgery on Friday. When Willy watched Kyle take the mound this time, he had 24 2/3 innings of Major League experience on his resume.

“It’s exciting, but I still get nervous,” Willy said. “After 62 years, it just doesn’t change.”

Kyle threw 12 pitches (eight strikes) in one inning, allowing a leadoff home run to Brandon Nimmo before retiring the next three batters in the Nationals' 8-4 loss to the Mets.

Rainey suffers setback

Late-inning reliever has been experiencing soreness in his collarbone area, manager Dave Martinez said Thursday.

“I think it was just more of a minor muscle strain,” Martinez said. “We shut him down for a few days. He’s throwing the ball at 90 feet now. He threw the ball the other day with no discomfort. We’re going to get him built up and back on the mound as soon as possible.”

Rainey had a breakout 2020 season in which posted a 2.66 ERA and 0.738 WHIP over 20 1/3 frames. He was shut down in mid-September because of tightness in his right forearm. Once Rainey is cleared for his Grapefruit League debut, the Nats’ goal is for him to make six or seven outings, including pitching back-to-back days.

“We definitely wanted to bring him to camp and kind of take it easy,” Martinez said. “I know he worked out and did a lot of stuff this offseason...He feels better. He’s anxious to get on the mound. But right now, we’re being very cautious and trying to take things slow.”

Twice as nice

has gone yard two times in as many Spring Training games. On Thursday, he sent a fastball from Dellin Betances to right-center field, driving in Josh Harrison and Blake Swihart in the fifth inning.

Jeffress progressing

is making strides towards his first spring appearance. After signing a Minor League deal with Washington on Feb. 22, he has been catching up on his pitching program. Martinez estimates the National League Reliever of the Year Award finalist could get in a game after “a couple more live BPs.”

“Here’s a guy that came to Spring Training, he’s ready,” Martinez said. “The first time I saw him throw, he threw the ball really well. I asked him, ‘Have you been throwing?’ He said, ‘Yeah, religiously.’ He looks great.”