No. 22 prospect Fuentes recalled for 'pen

Nationals' No. 18 prospect Romero suffers setback with rib injury

April 20th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- Looking to boost their taxed bullpen, the Nationals recalled right-hander -- their No. 22 prospect, per MLB Pipeline -- on Tuesday. They optioned righty Ryne Harper to the alternate training site in a corresponding move.

Fuentes, 23, has been in Washington’s organization since 2014. He reached Double-A in ‘19 (5-4, 2.69 ERA, 63 2/3 innings), and he spent last season at the alternate training site. This year, he has been stretched out to 85-90 pitches at Fredericksburg, Va. His first appearance with the Nationals will be his Major League debut.

“He threw well his last outing,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He gives us a little bit more length, a fresh arm.”

Martinez lauded Fuentes for consistently throwing in the strike zone. He highlighted Fuentes’ two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball and what he described as a “really good changeup.”

“I just want him to go out there when he gets an opportunity to pitch, just go out there, relax and utilize all his pitches,” Martinez said. “I told him, ‘Don’t change a thing because you’re here. Just throw strikes, let your defense play and just get outs for us.’”

The Nationals have had to keep a close eye on the bullpen’s workload amid the starting rotation’s recent struggles. Harper threw a combined three innings out of the ‘pen in back-to-back games, Sunday and Monday.

“He understands this is part of the game,” Martinez said. “It really stinks. But when you’re using your bullpen the way you’re using it right now, we’ve got to get some fresh arms in here and we’ve got to keep guys healthy. … I’m sure that you’ll see Ryne Harper again, but we’ve got to bring somebody in that can give us some length.”

Matchup decisions
Given Ryan Zimmerman’s decade-plus success against Adam Wainwright, it was notable that the veteran was not in the lineup against the Cardinals starter on Tuesday. Zimmerman is 13-for-37 (.351) in the matchup, including a home run last week.

Martinez, though, wants fellow first baseman Josh Bell to get into a rhythm and carry the momentum of his double on Tuesday. Bell is 7-for-23 (.304) with a homer and five RBIs in his career against Wainwright.

“[It was] very tempting [to start Zimmerman], but the good news is that we could plop him in if something’s happening anywhere. He’s had unbelievable success against Wainwright,” Martinez said. “But I looked at the numbers -- Bell’s hit him well, too. We really need to get Bell going, and he needs to get his at-bats. I was impressed with the way he hit the ball yesterday to left field, so that’s a good sign. We’ve got to get him going. Once we get him going, we’ll start scoring a lot more runs.”

Prospect Romero sidelined
The Nats’ No. 18 prospect, left-hander Seth Romero, suffered another setback. Romero, 25, injured his ribs while throwing last week at the alternate training site, Martinez said. His status is day to day.

“He’s not throwing the ball right now,” Martinez said. “He’s going to be out for a while. As soon as we can get him healthy, he’ll be back on the mound.”

Romero, the Nationals’ first-round MLB Draft pick in 2017, made his Major League debut last August. He was shut down weeks later after breaking his right hand and requiring season-ending surgery.