Nationals opt for 4-man rotation with Strasburg on IL

Max Scherzer

After placing Stephen Strasburg on the 10-Day Injured List on Sunday, the Nationals have decided to skip his upcoming spot in the rotation using some built-in off days.

Manager Davey Martinez announced on a Zoom call Friday that Max Scherzer will start Washington’s series opener Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays on five days’ rest. The Nationals just had the day off Thursday, allowing the team to proceed into next week with only four starting pitchers taking the ball.

Strasburg was scratched just hours before his originally scheduled start Sunday. The Nationals called up right-hander Paolo Espino from their alternate training site for a spot start and he did well considering the last-minute assignment; Espino allowed two runs over four and a third innings. However, Martinez plans to keep him around as an extra bullpen arm for now rather than trot him back out as a starter.

Erick Fedde, Joe Ross and Patrick Corbin are lined up to face the New York Mets this weekend before another off day Monday. Martinez hasn’t cemented his pitching plans past Scherzer’s start Tuesday, but it’s likely that Fedde gets the ball Wednesday against Toronto before yet another day off Thursday. After that, the Nationals could finally see the season debut of Jon Lester.

Lester -- who began the season on the IL as one of 13 members of the organization connected to its coronavirus outbreak -- has been at the alternate site in Fredericksburg, Va., ramping his arm back up. He’s set to start a simulated game Sunday with plans to throw around 90 pitches. That would line him up to start the following Friday against the Miami Marlins, though Martinez won’t commit to a firm target date for his return just yet.


“I really want to see how he comes out of this Sunday and then see how he feels on Monday,” Martinez said.

The Nationals enter Friday’s game against the Mets with a starters’ ERA of 5.29, the fourth-highest in the majors. Hoping to help the rotation turn a corner, Corbin and Scherzer turned in back-to-back strong performances against the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend. They tossed a combined 12 scoreless innings with 14 strikeouts, eight hits and one walk as Washington won both games.