ATLANTA — Needing to clear a spot on their roster for A.J. Cole to make his big-league debut Tuesday night, the Nationals optioned reliever Rafael Martin to Class AAA Syracuse.
Martin, 30, became the odd man out when the Nationals needed to drop someone to account for Cole's promotion, necessitated by Max Scherzer's scratch from his scheduled start against the Braves due to a sprained right thumb.
Scherzer isn't expected to need more than a couple extra days to recover, so a DL move wasn't necessary, but somebody else off the pitching staff needed to be removed from the roster so Cole could be called up.
Martin wound up the choice, based on the fact he just pitched Monday night and the fact he has struggled since his impressive major-league debut two weeks ago in Boston. The right-hander struck out five consecutive batters in that outing at Fenway Park, but was scored upon in each of his three appearances since.
Martin heads back to Syracuse having allowed seven runs (five earned) in five total innings, striking out 11 while walking two and serving up three homers. He came on in relief Monday night and hit Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons in the rear end on his first pitch, receiving the ire of the Atlanta dugout and a warning from plate umpire Bill Welke. (Simmons had injured Nationals third baseman Yunel Escobar with a late, hard slide two innings earlier.)
The Nationals will be a man down in their bullpen for Tuesday's game, but with Cole expected only to make a spot start, he could be optioned back to the minors after the game and the club could promote another reliever before Wednesday's series finale. (Martin cannot be recalled for 10 days, unless he's replacing an injured player.)