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Nationals look to roster expansion

August 30, 2018

PHILADELPHIA Outfielder Victor Robles began this season as the top prospect in the Nationals’ minor league system.

But he was overshadowed after he injured his left elbow in on April 9 and the emergence of fellow outfielder Juan Soto, 19, who was promoted to Washington on May 20 after starting the year at Single-A Hagerstown.

But Robles, 21, returned to Triple-A Syracuse on July 7 and could be called up to the Nationals when rosters expand in a few days. “He would be a good option to have,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said before Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia.

Big-league teams are allowed to expand their roster from 25 to as many as 40 by Saturday, Sept. 1. But Martinez said the Nationals may wait and add more players once Triple-A affiliate Syracuse is done with their season, which is slated to end Monday.

Robles hit .250 in his first 13 games and 24 at-bats with the Nationals in 2017. This year with Syracuse he hit .254 in his first 39 games.

“He has done a terrific job with his rehab,” director of player development Mark Scialabba told The Washington Times Wednesday. “He is in a very good place right now. He is starting to do some damage (at the plate). He is playing great defense in center field.”

There are several pitchers with Syracuse who are on the 40-man roster and have spent time with the Nationals this year. They include Austin Voth, Sammy Solis, Trevor Gott and Austin L. Adams.

Voth went 6 2/3 innings and allowed two earned runs on Tuesday in a win at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He is 5-8 with an ERA of 4.46 in 23 starts this year for Syracuse. Voth made one start for the Nationals this year.

“He started off strong. He had some bumps in the road,” Scialabba said. “His fastball command has improved.”

Paul Menhart, the minor league pitching coordinator, has been impressed by Kyle McGowin, 26, who was drafted by the Angels in 2013 in the fifth round out of Savannah State.

“Kyle’s cross fire delivery gives him deception that makes it very difficult for batters to feel very comfortable facing him. He has very good feel for 3 pitches that he mixes up quite well,” according to Menhart.

He was 2-2 with an ERA of 1.33 in his six starts this year for Syracuse. The New York native, who is not currently on the 40-man roster, began the year at Single-A Potomac and also pitched at Double-A Harrisburg before heading to Syracuse.

McGowin went seven innings and allowed no earned runs to get the win Friday against Rochester. He started at Potomac more as a precaution since he was on the disabled list.

“He had a minor setback in spring training. He really made strides with his command this year,” Scialabba said. “He has command of the fastball down (in the zone). His slider has been a weapon for him. He is a potential starter for us (at some point in the majors). His changeup has evolved.”

Another pitcher who could pitch for the Nationals next month is Joe Ross, who made his latest minor league rehab start Monday for Syracuse. Hewent six innings and allowed three runs.

Ross has not pitched for the Nationals this year, and he works his way back from an injury. Last year he made 13 starts for the Nationals and an ERA of 5.01 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2017.

“For Joe it is about getting through the outing strong,” Scialabba said. “He has a great mindset.”

Other position players on the 40-man roster who are at Syracuse include infielders Adrian Sanchez and Matt Reynolds and catcher Pedro Severino. Martinez said the Nationals most likely wouldn’t add a third catcher to the big league roster until after the Syracuse season is over.

Reynolds was hitting .261 in 82 games with Syracuse through Tuesday. Sanchez was batting .239 in his first 65 games with the Chiefs this year. Both Sanchez and Reynolds have seen limited time with the Nationals this year.

Double-A Harrisburg shortstop Carter Kieboom, one of the top prospects in the system, appears headed to the Arizona Fall League, general manager Mike Rizzo said this month. Those rosters will be announced Thursday, according to Scialabba.

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