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Caught up in numbers game, Solis optioned

Hellickson's return from DL forces Washington's hand
MLB.com @JamalCollier

PHILADELPHIA -- Sammy Solis knew a roster move was coming in order for the Nationals to activate Jeremy Hellickson from the disabled list to start Saturday, and he had run through the potential scenarios in his head. Still, he admitted to being surprised Saturday afternoon with the news the Nationals optioned him to Triple-A Syracuse to clear room on the roster.

Washington had been carrying nine relievers in its bullpen, but the only one with options available was Solis. So, instead of designating a reliever for assignment and risking losing them to another club, they decided to option Solis -- one of the arms they have relied upon most heavily.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Sammy Solis knew a roster move was coming in order for the Nationals to activate Jeremy Hellickson from the disabled list to start Saturday, and he had run through the potential scenarios in his head. Still, he admitted to being surprised Saturday afternoon with the news the Nationals optioned him to Triple-A Syracuse to clear room on the roster.

Washington had been carrying nine relievers in its bullpen, but the only one with options available was Solis. So, instead of designating a reliever for assignment and risking losing them to another club, they decided to option Solis -- one of the arms they have relied upon most heavily.

View Full Game Coverage

As he packed up his locker in Philadelphia prior to Saturday's game against the Phillies, Solis was still in shock, and although he understood this as a "business decision," he admitted to being upset.

"Obviously, I'll need some time to cool down," he said. "Never fun getting sent down, especially when you've kind of laid it all on the line up until now."

Solis just made his 40th appearance of the year in Friday's 17-7 victory, already a career-high for a pitcher with a history of arm injuries. An effort to reduce his workload lately has limited him to 28 innings, but the stress on his left arm has been noticeable. His velocity has dipped from the usual mid-90s to the low-90s as of late.

"Obviously workload was heavy," Solis said. "… got down to just me and Doolittle for a little bit [as the only lefties in the bullpen], so I picked up the slack and there were days I didn't feel great, a lot of days I didn't feel great, but the team needed it, so I'd throw myself out there … There's just not much to say at this point."

Solis had often been the first left-handed option out of the bullpen for manager Dave Martinez to help bridge the gap between the middle innings and the end of his bullpen. Solis owns a 4.50 ERA and 1.32 WHIP with 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings, but he has not had as much success against lefties, who own a .794 OPS with three homers against him (compared to a .619 OPS and no homers against righties).

Video: SD@WSH: Solis picks off Jankowski on 1-3-6 putout

Perhaps going to Triple-A can give Solis a bit of a breather on his workload, but the Nationals also want him to focus on his splits against lefties and Martinez says that was the biggest key to the move.

"It was very tough," Martinez said. "I'm a big Solis fan, I'm not going to lie, but we need him to get better, to consistently get better getting lefties out. That was the big decision."

Worth noting
• On Saturday, the Nationals reinstated catcher Raudy Read from the restricted list and optioned him to Syracuse. Read had been serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

To clear room on the 40-man roster, the Nats transferred first baseman Ryan Zimmerman to the 60-day DL. The move should not change his timetable for a return much, considering he will still be eligible to be activated on July 9, but it does pave the way for him to complete a Minor League rehab stint before returning.

Stephen Strasburg threw a 35-pitch bullpen session on Saturday, one with much more intensity than his light session on Thursday. Martinez said he would need to throw at least one more bullpen session before the Nats decide his next step.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Sammy Solis