Nationals reserves take batting practice off John Feliz

(Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

More than four hours before first pitch, a starting pitcher started warming up in the Nationals Park outfield. John Feliz, a 20-year-old right-hander from the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate, played catch as if preparing for a start. He had been summoned because Nationals brass wanted to get a look at Feliz, whom the Nationals signed from the Dominican Republic last year.

They also needed a pitcher for their bench players to hit against. In July, as the Nationals’ lineup grew fully healthy, Nate McLouth received one start and 16 plate appearances. Scott Hairston started twice and went to the plate 17 times. And so the Nationals invited Feliz and wheeled away the L-screen in front of the mound.

“Very helpful,” McLouth said. “Especially when you’re not getting very many at-bats, to see some sort of game-speed scenario.”

While Feliz pitched, General Manager Mike Rizzo and other Nationals officials, including assistant GM Bob Boone, watched from behind the batting cage. Feliz is not regarded as a big prospect, but with his whip-like arm action Feliz has struck out 13 hitters in 14 2/3 innings this year.

“He was good,” McLouth said. “Probably a little nervous.”

One player who didn’t participate was Danny Espinosa. Wednesday in Miami, Espinosa hurt his hand when he got jammed during an at-bat. Espinosa jammed his hand again Thursday night, and afterward he wore a wrap on his hand. Espinosa rested the hand during batting practice, but he is available.

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