A year ago, Austin Voth was a healthy 24-year-old pitcher on the brink of the major leagues. He was on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, and one of the few seemingly close-to-major-league-ready starters remaining in the high minors after Washington had traded two in that category for Adam Eaton.

Then something strange happened. His velocity dropped. And it wasn’t a slight drop. A discouraging performance inevitably followed. A 6.38 ERA in 13 starts for Class AAA Syracuse, which prompted a demotion to Class AA Harrisburg. There, he pitched to a 5.13 ERA in 10 starts. That major league opportunity suddenly seemed distant again.

Health wasn’t the problem. Voth was certain. But his fastball was in the mid-80s and something had to change. So during the offseason he trained with Cressey Sports Performance in Florida, focusing on strength. He noticed a difference immediately in spring training, one that carried over into the season with extraordinary results for Syracuse and was the reason he was unpacking his belongings in the home clubhouse at Nationals Park Sunday morning.

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“It was weird because my arm wasn’t hurting at all,” Voth, 25, said. “It was just kind of odd. Nobody knew what to do, what to help me. We focused on mechanics and that didn’t work. It wasn’t until I went to Cressey and started working hard and they kind of figured me out.”

The Nationals, in need of fresh bullpen arms, recalled Voth Sunday morning a day after using every reliever in their bullpen in a loss to the Diamondbacks. Austin Adams was optioned to Syracuse after walking in the game-winning run Saturday.

Voth joins the Nationals after posting a 0.96 ERA in four starts for Syracuse. He amassed 22 strikeouts to two walks. After striking out 5.7 batters per nine innings for Syracuse last year, that number spiked to 10.06 this season. Velocity is the primary reason. He’s been in the low-90s and he said he’s touched 93.

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“I feel a lot more, a lot stronger, a lot more confident in myself this year than last year and previous years,” Voth said. “My velo’s back up. I can command the zone like I did in the past so I’m definitely more confident.”

Voth isn’t a reliever. He’s come out of the bullpen for three of his 118 career minor league appearances. Most of his experience as a reliever has come in spring training. Manager Dave Martinez acknowledged he’ll have to be careful with using Voth out of the bullpen, but that’s how the Nationals will use him. Voth gives them length. He hasn’t pitched since April 23 so he’ll be available Sunday. Given how Saturday played out, he’ll almost certainly make an appearance if the Nationals need a couple innings.

Anthony Rendon, however, won’t be available. Rendon was eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, but the Nationals didn’t make the move. Martinez said the third baseman is close, though, after an intense workout Saturday and more work Sunday morning to test his injured left big toe. Lateral movement has been Rendon’s biggest challenge, but Martinez reported Rendon was able to, particularly when fielding ground balls, without a problem. Whenever Rendon is cleared, he’ll probably be sent on a rehab assignment.

NATIONALS (11-16)
Trea Turner SS
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Bryce Harper RF
Howie Kendrick 2B
Michael A. Taylor CF
Matt Wieters C
Moises Sierra LF
Wilmer Difo 3B
Gio Gonzalez LHP

DIAMONDBACKS (19-7)
David Peralta LF
Nick Ahmed SS
Paul Goldschmidt 1B
A.J. Pollock CF
Micah Owings RF
Ketel Marte 2B
Deven Marrero 3B
John Ryan Murphy C
Robbie Ray LHP

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