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Nationals get first look at starting pitcher Austin Voth


Nationals get first look at starting pitcher Austin Voth

NEW YORK - The Washington Nationals will finally get their first look at Austin Voth on Saturday afternoon. Might the New York Mets be getting their last look at Zack Wheeler?

Voth will make his major league debut Saturday when he is scheduled to oppose Wheeler in a battle of right-handers in the third game of a four-game series between the Nationals and the host Mets at Citi Field.

The Mets evened the series Friday night when Noah Syndergaard, making his first start in seven weeks, picked up the win after allowing one run in five innings of New York's 4-2 victory.

For Voth, Saturday's appearance will be a debut a long time in coming. The 26-year-old is in the midst of his fourth stint this season with the Nationals, but each of his first three trips to the bigs ended after just a day. He didn't pitch on April 29 or as the 26th man in a doubleheader on May 16 (when the games were rained out) and June 18.

Upon welcoming Voth again on Tuesday, Nationals manager Dave Martinez promised this promotion would come with an actual big league appearance, either in relief over the subsequent couple of days or as a spot starter Saturday, when Washington plays the 17th game in an 18-day stretch without a day off.

"He's been up four times already and he hasn't pitched yet," Martinez told reporters Tuesday. "So he's going to get an opportunity to pitch."

Voth will be the second pitcher this week to make his major league debut against the Mets. Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Enyel De Los Santos earned the win Tuesday when he allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings of the Phillies' 7-3 victory.

Voth went 4-5 with a 3.55 ERA in 15 starts for Triple-A Syracuse. He is 31-40 with a 3.48 ERA in six professional seasons since the Nationals selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 draft out of the University of Washington.

Wheeler (2-6, 4.42 ERA) will take the mound as perhaps the pitcher most likely to be dealt by the free-falling Mets (38-54), who have gone 27-53 since an 11-1 start. New York is reportedly reluctant to deal ace-caliber right-handers Jacob deGrom, who leads the majors with a 1.68 ERA, and Noah Syndergaard. Left-hander Steven Matz remains under team control through 2021.

Wheeler, on the other hand, is due for free agency after next season, which could make him an attractive target to teams looking for more than just a rental. The New York Daily News reported nearly one-third of the league -- nine teams, including the crosstown New York Yankees -- have sent scouts to check out Wheeler's recent starts.

On Friday, though, Syndergaard expressed hope the Mets would try to keep the band together for at least another season. DeGrom, Syndergaard, Wheeler and Matz have combined to post a 3.03 ERA in 66 starts this year.

"I think everything's starting to come into place," Syndergaard said. "Wheeler's throwing the ball really well, he's on the mound (Saturday). Matzie's throwing the ball really well and what Jake's doing is very impressive. It's a lot of fun to watch. He deserves that start in the All-Star Game."

Wheeler didn't factor into the decision in his most recent start Monday, when he gave up three runs over 4 2/3 innings in the Mets' 4-3, 10-inning win over the Phillies. It was the first time since May 16, a span of nine starts, in which Wheeler did not last at least five innings.

Wheeler is 2-8 with a 4.81 ERA in 11 career starts against the Nationals, whom he's faced more than any other opponent.


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Nationals introduce first round pick Jackson Rutledge, who is ready to work

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Nationals introduce first round pick Jackson Rutledge, who is ready to work

WASHINGTON -- Jackson Rutledge may still be years away from the majors, but as the Nationals' 2019 first round pick toured the team's ballpark for the first time on Monday, he sure looked the part as a big leaguer.

At 6-foot-8, Rutledge towers over everyone currently on the Nationals' roster. He's got prototypical pitcher size with a fastball that reaches triple digits.

Like any pitcher recently drafted, no matter the round, there is a good chance Nationals fans will not hear Rutledge's name again for quite some time, if they hear it again at all.

In the previous eight years, the team used their first pick in the draft on a pitcher six times. Only two of them - Lucas Giolito and Erick Fedde - have pitched in a Nationals uniform, and only Fedde is currently on their roster.

Rutledge, 20, will begin his journey with the Gulf Coast League Nationals. He heads there on Friday, hoping it will not be long before he is back in Washington.

"This is my first time in D.C.," Rutledge said. "Amazing stadium."

Rutledge signed his first contract with the Nationals on Monday and passed a physical in the morning. In the afternoon, he walked around the clubhouse and on the field during batting practice, introducing himself to manager Davey Martinez and players who could be his future teammates.

Rutledge has said in various interviews since being drafted earlier this month that he looks forward to playing with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, the Nationals' three ace starters. 

This was his first glimpse at them in-person.

"Meeting all the big league guys was really cool," he said. "I just want to be one of those guys that has that success."

If there was any impression Rutledge left on Monday, beyond his height, it was his eagerness to learn. He cited several of his mentors over the years, former big leaguers like Andy Benes who coached him in summer ball and Woody Williams, an assistant coach at San Jacinto Community College. He mentioned Tom Arrington, head coach at San Jacinto, and his attention to detail.

Rutledge even had praise for Ross Detwiler, a former Nationals pitcher whom they took in the first round of the 2007 MLB Draft. He explained how Detwiler taught him a changeup grip during an offseason workout that he has continued to use.

Those are the people, he says, who helped him arrive at this unexpected place in his life as a first-round draft pick.

"If you asked me a year and a half ago where I would be, I probably wouldn't say the first round. It worked out really well because of how hard I worked," Rutledge said.

His college numbers were certainly impressive. Rutledge held a 0.87 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 13 starts. As a freshman at Arkansas before transferring, he posted a 3.45 ERA in 12 starts.

Rutledge is now looking forward to taking the next steps in his development. He said working on his curveball and changeup will be the focus while he's in the GCL. He wants to add weight and muscle to prepare for next year, his first full pro season. 

Assuming he does someday return to Washington as a big league pitcher, Rutledge said to expect a guy who likes to work fast but without a lot of emotion.

"When things are going well, I really feel in control of the game. I feel like I'm setting the game at my own pace and hitters feel uncomfortable because of that," he said. 

"I'm not a guy that's going to get up and start yelling and give energy like that, I'm more of a consistent kind of flat body language sort of guy."

Nationals fans will hope to get to know him better someday. For now, it's down to the minors to learn the ropes as a prospect.


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Victor Robles wins first career Play of the Week award

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Victor Robles wins first career Play of the Week award

For the first time in his young Major League career, Nationals rookie outfielder Victor Robles was honored with a Play of the Week award.

Thanks to his lightning speed and fearless playing style, it probably won’t be his last.

Tuesday night in Chicago, Robles found himself chasing down a Leury Garcia rocket to left-center off a Patrick Corbin breaking ball.

Robles, who had been playing Garcia in right-center, covered nearly 90 feet to make the catch, reaching a top speed of 29.9 feet per second. 

As a reference, 30.0 feet per second is considered elite. So, yeah, Robles was running pretty fast here.

The catch was so impressive it brought fans to their feet, showering Robles with a standing ovation. As a reminder, the game was being played in Chicago, not Washington, so for opposing fans to cheer it had to be a pretty special play.

Major League Baseball clearly agreed, awarding Robles for the effort.

Robles is just the second National to win the award, following Anthony Rendon late last month.

The rookie outfielder is enjoying an up-and-down season at the plate, slashing .234/.303/.402 with nine home runs and nine stolen bases.