For the second time in less than a month, the Washington Nationals will send a flame-throwing, top pitching prospect to the mound to make his major league debut. Reynaldo Lopez takes the hill Tuesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, which Nationals Manager Dusty Baker announced after Washington’s 2-1, 18-inning loss to the Pirates.
Baker said Sammy Solis will be placed on the 15-day disabled list because of right knee soreness to make room for Lopez on the 25-man roster. Solis’s stint on the DL will be retroactive to July 7, the date of his last appearance in a game. The Nationals also need to clear a spot on their 40-man roster.
Lopez will take Joe Ross’s turn in the rotation. Ross has been on the disabled list since July 3 with inflammation in his right shoulder.
Baker explained that the Nationals chose Lopez, 22, over Lucas Giolito, who debuted June 28 and has made two starts for Washington, because they believe Giolito could use work on his breaking pitches and command. Widely regarded as the top prospect in baseball, Giolito joined Class AAA Syracuse over the weekend after allowing four runs over seven innings with Class A Hagerstown last week.
Baker said Giolito is slated to pitch Tuesday for Syracuse in order to line up with Lopez in case his debut goes awry and Ross isn’t ready the next time through the rotation.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Lopez signed with the Nationals for $17,000 in 2012 and is now ranked 48th on Baseball America’s latest list of the top 100 prospects. The 6-foot right-hander began the season with Class AA Harrisburg and posted a 3.18 ERA in 14 starts there before moving up to Syracuse. Overall, he’s 4-5 with a 3.19 ERA, 1.248 WHIP, 109 strikeouts and 31 walks in 87 1/3 innings between the two levels this season.
Lopez started two games for Syracuse and gave up four runs over 11 innings. His last start for the Chiefs came July 5, but he pitched a scoreless inning in the Futures Game on July 10. Lopez impressed in the exhibition with a fastball that reached triple digits on the radar gun.
Baker said Solis will undergo an MRI on his right knee. The left-hander was the only reliever on the Nationals’ active roster not to pitch in Sunday’s marathon loss. A converted starter, Solis has a 2.43 ERA in 25 relief appearances this season.