Nats' plan for Gray in flux with recent rotation questions

September 24th, 2022

MIAMI -- The Nationals have been keeping a close eye on ’s innings count in his first complete Major League season, reiterating the possibility that the 24-year-old right-hander could be shut down early because of it.

But as Gray’s frames total grew to 142 2/3 in Friday’s 5-2 loss to the Marlins at loanDepot park, Washington has to address questions surrounding the starting rotation with 12 games remaining in the season.

“We’re still going to watch it,” manager Dave Martinez said postgame. “Now, with the uncertainty of [Patrick] Corbin moving forward, we’ll have to take a look at that. But right now, I’m really on that cusp of what to do in the next two or three days. We’ll talk to him and we’ll see how Corbin’s doing, and then we’ll go from there.”

Corbin exited his last start on Tuesday against the Braves because of back spasms after throwing just 12 pitches. It remains to be decided if the southpaw, who is tied for third among National League pitchers in games started (30), will be cleared for his next turn in the rotation.

Corbin, 33, threw from 90 feet at 75 to 80 percent pregame on Friday. He received treatment after playing catch, and he will attempt to throw again on Saturday. The Nats then will evaluate how he feels to map out a potential timetable.

“The last four or five starts he’s been throwing the ball really well, which is encouraging, which is great for us,” said Martinez. “I don’t want him to finish out the year being hurt, but I’m not going to push him, either. If he’s hurt, he’s hurt, and we’ll regroup and get him ready for Spring Training. Today, he said he felt a lot better than he did yesterday.”

The Nationals also are waiting to determine the availability of left-hander (left elbow inflammation). They had hoped for the 23-year-old to make one big league start before the end of the season. In the short term, his next appearance will be another Triple-A start on Monday with a goal of 75-plus pitches and five innings.

“He wants to come back and pitch,” said Martinez. “As much as I do want to see him, it’s about sticking to the process and making sure that when he does come back, he’s ready.”

In his most recent Minor League appearance on Wednesday, Gore tossed four innings, fanned four and allowed one run on 65 pitches (46 strikes) with the Red Wings. He has been on the injured list since July 26, when he was a member of the Padres.

“I’m not going to put any limitations on him, but we’re definitely going to keep a close eye on him if he does [return],” said Martinez. “It may only be three innings, it may be four innings, we don’t know that. But the fact that he worked really hard to get back … and if he does pitch in a game for us this year, it would be awesome.”

While the Nats weigh their options for upcoming pitching plans, Gray is looking ahead with the focus of making his next start. He completed his 27th outing of the season with eight hits, four runs, one walk and three strikeouts over six innings.

“I feel really good,” said Gray. “The training staff and the strength staff and [pitching coach Jim] Hickey and Davey, they’ve set out a really good plan. I feel really good with every outing. … The results at the end didn’t go my way, but I’m excited to end the season strong.”