The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Nationals activate Ryan Madson, restoring dominant back end of bullpen

Ryan Madson is active for Thursday night’s series opener in Atlanta. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)
Placeholder while article actions load

ATLANTA — As expected, the Washington Nationals activated Ryan Madson from the 10-day disabled list Thursday, restoring the dominant trio at the back of their bullpen. Madson had been on the disabled list since May 20 with a right pectoral sprain, an injury he said did not result from overuse, and one he did not expect to be severe. He missed 10 days with the injury, and threw two bullpens in that time. His initial optimistic diagnosis seems to have been correct.

“I was a little nervous at first because usually after a couple treatments, it’s gone. So it was maybe just a little worse than I thought initially,” Madson said. “But after the first week, it was gone.”

That Madson had to sit for a week and a half can only help the Nationals, who have watched Madson, Brandon Kintzler, Sammy Solis and Sean Doolittle endure unsustainable workloads during the first two months of the season. Madson appeared in 21 of the Nationals’ first 42 games, and even with the disabled list stint, he is still on pace for 63 appearances.

“We gotta be real careful. Here’s a guy who wants to pitch. Every time he’s available, he wants to go out there,” Manager Dave Martinez said. “But I have to be a little bit smarter with him and tell him hey, I know you feel like you’re available, but let’s kind of give you that extra day.”

Madson returns rested and at full strength, just in time to help the Nationals in their showdown for National League East supremacy in Atlanta this weekend. Doolittle pitched two days in a row, so he will need a break Thursday night. In Madson, the Nationals have a man to help give it to him, or at least to get the ball to Kintzler, who is more comfortable in the ninth inning than Madson.

Nationals vs. Braves series preview: A fight for first place

The Nationals optioned right-hander Trevor Gott to Syracuse to make room for Madson. Gott has shown promise at times with his hard, sinking fastball, but hasn’t seen the promise his breaking ball showed in spring training translate to the majors. While he has shown the ability to strike out hitters consistently — 12 in 15 1/3 innings so far — he has pitched to a 5.28 ERA in 17 appearances. Gott is one of the few members of this bullpen with minor league options, and that the Nationals chose to send him down instead of Wander Suero reveals the amount of trust Martinez has gained in Suero during his first major league stint. The right-hander has a 3.12 ERA in nine appearances.

More bullpen moves might be on the way this week after lefty Matt Grace made a second rehab appearance for Class AA Harrisburg Wednesday night. He will get two days off, then be reevaluated, according to Martinez. When Grace is ready, the Nationals will have a decision to make. Of those left in the bullpen, Kintzler, Madson and Doolittle are not going anywhere. Solis has options remaining, but he is a key part of this bullpen, and is also not going anywhere. Suero has pitched well enough to stay. Right-hander Justin Miller has looked dominant so far, and has no options remaining. Tim Collins has options, but he has pitched well, too. The choices are limited.

In the meantime, the Nationals have their three best relievers back and healthy, with a new supporting cast around them that seems better able to help ease their load. Martinez said outfielder Brian Goodwin could be activated as soon as this weekend, too. Daniel Murphy and Adam Eaton will play rehab games with Harrisburg this weekend.


Trea Turner SS

Bryce Harper RF

Anthony Rendon 3B

Mark Reynolds 1B

Juan Soto LF

Michael A. Taylor CF

Pedro Severino C

Tanner Roark P

Wilmer Difo 2B


Ender Inciarte CF

Ozzie Albies 2B

Freddie Freeman 1B

Nick Markakis RF

Tyler Flowers C

Johan Camargo 3B

Preston Tucker LF

Dansby Swanson SS

Sean Newcomb P

Read more:

Move aside, Clayton Kershaw. Max Scherzer is the best pitcher in baseball.

The Braves are way ahead of schedule but they’re here now, and they’re scary

Max Scherzer stifles Orioles as Nats’ sixth straight win lands them in first

No, the fire at New York Mets’ Citi Field did not involve a dumpster

Adam Eaton targeting June 8 return, will start rehab assignment Friday