LOS ANGELES — In an attempt to bolster their bullpen depth, the Washington Nationals designated A.J. Cole for assignment and called up Carlos Torres from Class AAA Syracuse to replace him on the roster. By doing so, the Nationals will expose Cole on the waiver wire and risk losing him because he is out of minor league options, something the club was hoping to avoid to keep him around as starting rotation depth.
Cole, 26, began the season as Washington’s fifth starter but made just two starts. He allowed 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Atlanta Braves in his first outing. He was better in the second, limiting the Braves to two runs in 5 1/3 innings, but Jeremy Hellickson replaced him in the rotation for the next turn, which pushed Cole to the bullpen.
He allowed runs in his two relief appearances. On Wednesday, he was charged with just one run in one-third of an inning but allowed a grand slam to Yoenis Cespedes after entering the game with the bases loaded. The outing inflated his ERA to 13.06 across 10 1/3 innings.
Torres, meanwhile, was signed to a minor league deal March 30, the day the Nationals opened the season in Cincinnati, after spending spring training with the Cleveland Indians. He didn’t allow a run in four appearances for Syracuse. The right-hander, 35, spent the last two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, with whom he posted a 3.43 ERA in 139 appearances.
“That was a tough conversation today,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said. “It really was. But we felt with the way Torres was pitching in the minor leagues, his veteran experience in the bullpen, and [his ability to] give us length, pitch multiple days and pitch two innings at a time, would fit our needs right now.”
Torres joins the Nationals two days after the bullpen collapsed in a nine-run eighth inning against the New York Mets on Wednesday. Washington took that series anyway, winning two of three, and continued its nine-game road trip Friday night at Dodger Stadium, where Max Scherzer will oppose Clayton Kershaw.
The Nationals will be without Anthony Rendon for the sixth straight game. The third baseman fouled a ball off his big toe on this left foot last Friday but wasn’t placed on the disabled list. Instead, the Nationals hoped he would return early enough to justify having a short bench or not having an extra reliever. Martinez explained that the club didn’t put Rendon on the DL because he kept reporting that the toe was getting better.
“I’m pretty confident he’ll play this weekend,” Martinez said.
Though he’s not starting, Martinez said Rendon could be available to pinch-hit Friday if he felt good after taking groundballs and hitting on the field. Martinez wanted to use Rendon as a pinch-hitter in New York earlier in the week, but the toe was too painful when he was preparing in the batting cage.
While Rendon’s return appears imminent, left fielder Adam Eaton was eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday, but he remains there. Martinez said Eaton, who is out with a bone bruise in his left ankle, hit and was scheduled to run Friday. He called his status “day-to-day” and said he wasn’t sure whether Eaton will need a rehab assignment.
Trea Turner SS
Howie Kendrick 2B
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Moises Sierra LF
Matt Wieters C
Michael A. Taylor CF
Wilmer Difo 3B
Max Scherzer RHP
Chris Taylor CF
Kyle Seager SS
Yasmani Grandal C
Cody Bellinger 1B
Joc Pederson LF
Chase Utley 2B
Yasiel Puig RF
Max Muncy 3B
Clayton Kershaw LHP