NEW YORK — Always in search of pitching depth, the Nationals have signed veteran Edwin Jackson to a minor league deal, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Jackson will report to Class AAA Syracuse Friday.
It is the 33-year-old Jackson’s second stint with the Nationals organization. The right-hander spent the 2012 campaign in Washington, posting a 4.03 ERA in 189 2/3 innings across 31 starts during the regular season. He then allowed five runs over six innings in two appearances in the NLDS against the Cardinals, starting Game 3 and coming out of the bullpen in Game 5.
A career starter who has pitched for 12 clubs since breaking into the majors with the Dodgers at 19 in 2003, Jackson began the season in the Orioles organization almost exclusively as a reliever. He had a 3.10 ERA in 12 outings — 11 in relief — for Baltimore’s Class AAA affiliate before he was promoted to the majors earlier this month. He then allowed seven runs — four earned — in five innings as a reliever for the Orioles and was designated for assignment last Sunday.
“This guy, he’s always had good stuff,” Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said. “The fact that he can get a job is the fact that he has good stuff. He might be a guy that gets it together and keeps it together. I heard he works hard. He’s a good guy on the team, they told me here. He told me he always wanted to play for me.”
The Nationals have a clear need in the bullpen and Baker hinted that Jackson could be used as a reliever. But while the Nationals have one of baseball’s best starting rotations, the depth drop is steep after their top four starters, a void partly created by trading Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito for Adam Eaton over the winter.
Joe Ross has been wildly inconsistent as the club’s No. 5 starter with a 6.39 ERA in eight starts, and there aren’t many major-league-ready options behind him. The best is Jacob Turner, who has settled in as the Nationals’ long man out of the bullpen. There isn’t much beyond that. Both Austin Voth (6.16 ERA) and A.J. Cole (5.68 ERA) are on the 40-man roster, but have struggled for Syracuse this season. Cole’s ERA is the lowest among the five pitchers on Syracuse’s roster who have made at least six starts this season.
Erick Fedde, Washington’s top pitching prospect, figured to have a shot to make an impact as a starter in the majors this season, but the club decided to convert him to a reliever a month ago for the remainder of the year. The plan is for him to debut for Washington as a reliever later this season.
Sammy Solis should provide much-needed bullpen help sooner. The left-hander, on the disabled list since April 19, began a rehab assignment with Syracuse Thursday. Solis, who pitched the first inning, allowed a leadoff home run to Rusney Castillo and walked another batter. He threw 19 pitches. The Nationals have 20 days from Thursday to end the rehab assignment and reinstate him.
“He came out okay,” Baker said. “Just the fact that he was on the mound [was important]. The outcome doesn’t worry me as much as just how he comes out of it today after being on the mound.”
As for other injured Nationals, Chris Heisey (biceps), Jayson Werth (toe), and Koda Glover (back) all didn’t make the trip to New York. Ryan Raburn will get the start in left field Friday night with the Mets starting left-hander Steven Matz opposite Max Scherzer.
Trea Turner SS
Ryan Raburn LF
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Daniel Murphy 2B
Anthony Rendon 3B
Matt Wieters C
Michael A. Taylor CF
Max Scherzer RHP
Michael Conforto CF
Yoenis Cespedes LF
Jay Bruce RF
Wilmer Flores 3B
Lucas Duda 1B
T.J. Rivera 2B
Travis d’Arnaud C
Jose Reyes SS
Steven Matz LHP