The Washington Nationals made it official earlier today that 23-year-old right hander AJ Cole will be making his Major League baseball debut tonight against the Atlanta Braves (7:10 PM ET, MASN + MLB Network). In order to make room for Cole on the 25-man roster, the organization sent right-handed reliever Rafael Martin down to triple-A Syracuse:
While opponents have hit .295 against Cole in his first three starts at Syracuse this season, he has pitched to a 2.40 ERA and has ten strikeouts to one walk. Last season, he was 7-0 in 11 starts with a 3.43 ERA. Currently, he is the number three prospect in the Nats system, according to MLB Pipeline. He is the second ranked pitcher in the organization behind Lucas Giolito.
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As for Rafael Martin, the Nationals sent the 30-year old right hander back to triple-A after making four appearances with the big league club. Of course, everyone will remember Martin’s historic performance in his debut against the Red Sox. Back on April 14, at Fenway Park, he struck out five straight batters over two innings of work. However, the last three outings have not been very good. In those outings, he gave up seven runs on seven hits, struck out six batters, and walked two. Last night, Martin pitched against the Atlanta Braves and gave up two runs (no earned runs) in one inning of work, including hitting Andrelton Simmons with a pitch.
Cole is taking the place of Max Scherzer in the rotation, who will miss tonight’s start due to a jammed thumb on his pitching hand. The Nationals should be getting Scherzer back real soon, however, which is crucial when you consider he has been the best starter in the rotation this month:
When you watch Cole tonight, keep an eye on his pitch count. He has thrown 80+ pitches in all three starts this season, including 86 pitches in his first start of the season against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders(New York Yankees). This is a game where you can see a combination of Cole and Tanner Roark as the Nats try to stop the six-game skid. This is the kind of night where the offense needs to give some run support for the rookie pitcher in the early stages of the game.