Spring Breakout start part of Nats' evaluation of No. 15 prospect

March 14th, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Right-hander , the No. 15 prospect in the Nationals’ system according to MLB Pipeline, is slated to start the Spring Breakout game against the Mets on Friday afternoon. Rutledge is expected to pitch an inning-plus in the game, maybe two.

“I’m excited. It’s a good thing, what [Major League Baseball] is doing,” Rutledge said. “Just get a little spotlight on the younger guys. I’m excited to be the guy to lead it off. I’m going to get my work in and try to build up a little bit after in the bullpen, probably.”

Rutledge has pitched in three Spring Training games, allowing three runs in seven innings with seven strikeouts. That’s not including the simulated games and live batting practices he has participated in this spring. He is not projected to be on the Opening Day roster, but manager Dave Martinez wants Rutledge to continue working with pitching coach Jim Hickey.

“I want to see him. I want to see him around the guys,” Martinez said about Rutledge. “I want Hickey to keep his eyes on him. Whether he breaks camp or not with us, he is going to help us. … He is going to be part of that mix somewhere along the line.

“I definitely want him with us. I want him to face some big league hitters, and I know he has this Breakout game which is all top prospects. I want to see how he reacts to that as well. He has gotten a lot better. He understands what he needs to do. We want to keep our eyes on him as long as we can.”

On the back fields
The Nationals had their ace, Josiah Gray, pitching on the back fields against the team’s Major League hitters on Wednesday. Washington wanted him to work on his changeup and start throwing his fastball for strikes in a controlled environment. Gray ended up throwing five innings on 75 pitches.

“He was really good down there, just attacking with his fastball,” Martinez said. “That’s something we want him to work with, and the rest of the stuff plays.”

Last year was a big one for Gray as far as growth is concerned. He made the National League All-Star team for the first time, and led Washington pitchers with 3.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.