With two starters pitching Wednesday, none of Gray, Fedde, Sánchez, Corbin or Espino will be on full rest for the final game of the first half. One option is to recall Joan Adon for another spot appearance. Another is to activate lefty Josh Rogers, who is recovering from a shoulder injury and last pitched for Class AA Harrisburg on June 6. Or if the bullpen is even moderately rested, Washington (30-58) could tap a group of relievers for the nine innings.
The Nationals already will have to make two roster moves to activate Sánchez, who needs a spot on the active and 40-man rosters. At that point, what’s one more before the team breaks for four days?
Right after announcing Sánchez’s return Tuesday afternoon, Manager Dave Martinez picked up Sánchez’s young son in the home dugout, putting the kid on his lap. Then Martinez had the child tell his father he would make his season debut against the Braves. Truth is, Martinez had already called Sánchez with the news. But it was still a nice moment for the 38-year-old, who has been sidelined since early April with a nerve impingement in his neck.
Having returned to Washington on a minor league deal, Sánchez was expected to make the Opening Day rotation. Instead, a long recovery ended with three rehab appearances for Class AAA Rochester. In his final one, Sánchez pitched 5⅓ innings, walked three and yielded an earned run on four hits. Martinez did not share any specific limitations, only saying the team will watch Sánchez closely as the start progresses.
If he can last five or more innings, the bullpen will be in good shape heading into the weekend. Anything less, though, will further complicate the situation.
Why did Juan Soto enter the Home Run Derby again? “I mean, for me, it worked last year, right? You saw the second half that I had,” Soto said, nodding to how last year’s derby led to a spike in power. After struggling to elevate contact for the first three months of 2021, Soto smacked 18 homers and posted a 1.164 on-base-plus slugging percentage from mid-July on.
“I’m just going to try and see how it feels in there and try to enjoy the show,” the 23-year-old continued. “At the end of the day, it was really good. It was really fun. I enjoyed it a lot, and I’m going to try to do the same thing: Be around all those stars and be part of it. Even if I don’t win, I’m going to try to enjoy it as much as I can.”
Who will throw to Soto in the derby? Jorge Mejia, a former minor league instructor for the Nationals and Soto’s offseason hitting coach in the Dominican Republic. Mejia was with the organization until last offseason, when he left to join an agency and train amateurs in the Dominican. He worked with Soto when he played for Washington’s Gulf Coast League team in 2016 and 2017. And when Soto broke out in the majors in 2018, some credited Mejia with helping Soto mold his swing and approach.