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Nats activate Janssen to make 2015 debut, send Solis to DL

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Nats activate Janssen to make 2015 debut, send Solis to DL

Updated at 6:41 p.m.

The Nationals made their long-anticipated move to activate Casey Janssen off the disabled list Friday, bolstering their bullpen with an experienced reliever but forcing them to place rookie Sammy Solis on the DL with his own shoulder ailment.

Janssen, who pitched six games during a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac and Class AA Harrisburg, is active and available out of the bullpen for Friday night’s series opener against the Phillies. The 33-year-old was signed to a guaranteed $3.5 million over the winter to serve as the club’s new setup man after Tyler Clippard’s trade to Oakland, but manager Matt Williams may want to ease him into that role.

“It depends on what the game provides,” Williams said. “We just don’t know. For me to sit here today and say we’re going to pitch him in this position, it wouldn’t make any sense. We’ll see what it provides for us on any given day. But he certainly has experience. He’s been there and done that. No moment would be too big for him, even coming off the DL. He’s been there before.”

Janssen missed the season’s first seven weeks with tendinitis in his right shoulder, frustrated to watch as the Nationals’ inexperienced bullpen struggled early on before righting itself over the last month.

“Yeah, it was tough,” the 33-year-old former Blue Jays closer said. “I said to some people that those games that we lost early on that were late, I took it hard on myself because I should’ve been the guy in that situation, and I should’ve been the one getting that loss or pitching well enough where we didn’t have to have that struggle. But guys pitched great. I think they’re all better for it now, pitching in tight games, and hopefully we’ve got a good thing going now.”

Janssen’s debut comes at the expense of Solis, who heads to the 15-day DL with inflammation in his left shoulder. The 26-year-old made his major-league debut April 30 against Mets and had pitched well in five appearances.

That workload, though, might have been a bit too much for Solis, a former starter who had only switched to a relief role this season. Solis wasn’t available to pitch earlier this week in the Nationals’ series against the Yankees.

“He’s in a new role, which is different than what he’s used to,” Williams said. “Just more volume, more often, may result in some soreness. We just want to make sure we calm it down as much as possible. And the fact Casey’s ready, it makes it a natural move for us.”

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Nationals set to bring back Matt Adams

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Nationals set to bring back Matt Adams

The Nationals just checked another box.

They have reached an agreement to bring back first baseman Matt Adams, pending a physical, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

The deal is for one year with a mutual option in 2020.

Adams flourished last season with the Nationals when he delivered an .842 OPS with an 118 OPS-plus in 306 at-bats as a part-time player. He was crucial since Ryan Zimmerman spent the middle of the season on the disabled list.

The Nationals later flipped Adams to the St. Louis Cardinals for “cash considerations”, which made him little more than a waiver claim for St. Louis. The Nationals just saved the remainder he was owed on his contract following the Aug. 21 transaction.

Adams, a quiet professional, fit well in the clubhouse. One on-field tear earned him a T-shirt homage to his nickname: “Big City doing Big City things” that several of his teammates wore pregame.

His role will be the same as last season: insurance for Zimmerman, as well as a power left-handed bat off the bench who will receive the occasional start if Zimmerman is healthy.

Adams’ return also enables the Nationals to shop for a true second baseman as opposed to a hybrid player like Marwin Gonzalez. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has continually moved the needle from standing pat to hunting for a starting second baseman. For now, a platoon of Wilmer Difo and Howie Kendrick is in place.

The Nationals' largest gap remains in the rotation following the trade of Tanner Roark. They need to find 180 innings in a thin free agent pitching market to replace Roark’s production from the last three seasons.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported the agreement with Adams.

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Tanner Roark is out, who could be in?

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Tanner Roark is out, who could be in?

LAS VEGAS -- Let’s strip the name and take a blank taste test. Wednesday, the Nationals sent an average of 197 innings out the door. That’s 591 outs. It’s not something to shrug off.

Trading Tanner Roark for a reliever, a minor-league one at that, extracts a path to almost 600 outs. The Nationals need to find a new one. Choices to do so aren’t very enticing.

They are back in the starting pitching market because of Roark’s regression the last two seasons coupling with an increase in pay. He’s expected to earn around $10 million out of salary arbitration. The Nationals are gambling they can find equal effectiveness through another starter -- or two.

There’s money to allocate now. It’s not much for the remaining upper tier of free agents. It’s sufficient to bring in someone on a one- or two-year deal and perhaps apply to a more versatile bench piece than a straight backup at first base.

Washington made Patrick Corbin the highest-paid pitcher this offseason. He was priority one. In a vacuum, he may not be worth six years and $140 million. But not all players carry the same value with every franchise. The Nationals had a clear need for another potent starter, and preferably a left-handed one at that. They received the combination with Corbin.

The challenge for the Nationals is handling this market after Charlie Morton and Lance Lynn complicated it. Morton signed a two-year, $30 million deal with Tampa Bay. Lynn received a three-year, $30 million contract from the Texas Rangers. If the Nationals didn’t want to pay Roark $10 million, they surely don’t want to pay another pitcher something near what Morton and Lynn received, even if it allows more control. Roark was entering the last year of his contract.

Dallas Keuchel remains atop the available starters. By WAR, the next-best available pitcher is 34-year-old Anibal Sanchez. He put together what appears to be an outlier season in 2018 following three consecutive years of significant regression. Sanchez’s ERA-plus went 80, 73, 70 before spiking to 143 last season, the third-best mark of his 13-year career. Sanchez has also averaged just 138 innings pitched on average the last four years. That’s a lot of outs between the workload Roark handled and Sanchez has as he heads into his age-35 season.

Next on the list by WAR? Gio Gonzalez. Moving on.

After that? Not much inspiration. Left-hander Wade Miley pitched well in just 16 starts last season. He has a carer 4.26 ERA. Miley has not put together a strong full season since 2013.

Matt Harvey? Trevor Cahill? Clay Buchholz?

Brett Anderson? James Shields? Jason Hammel?

These are not exactly places to hang your hat.

However, the Nationals have little choice. Their solution to replace Roark’s outs will come from outside the organization. Depth at Triple-A Fresno is negligible. Options in Double-A to help the rotation now are non-existent.

They have one intriguing pitcher lurking: Henderson Alvarez. The Nationals signed him to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

“Chance to make the team, if not, to pitch in Triple A for us,” Mike Rizzo said of his outlook on Alvarez.

Alvarez threw a no-hitter in 2013. He was an All-Star in 2014. Shoulder surgery was followed by shoulder discomfort, then another shoulder surgery. Alvarez didn’t pitch in 2016. He started three games for Philadelphia in 2017. He then pitched in the Mexican League in 2018, where he finished with 4.60 ERA in nine starts. The wildest of wild cards here.

Washington has also kept an eye on Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, who is available through posting system.

Somewhere, they need to find another 180 innings.

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