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Jeremy Hellickson likely to return to Nationals’ rotation Saturday

Veteran right-hander Jeremy Hellickson will be back in the rotation the next time through. (Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

Jeremy Hellickson half-chuckled Monday when asked about his rehabilitation outing for Class A Potomac the previous day.  That always-ominous phrase, “The results weren’t what you wanted, but . . .” was included in the question. Hellickson allowed 11 runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. “Not what you wanted” was an understatement.

“Physically, I felt fine,” he said. “I mean, obviously not how I wanted it to go, but I felt fine. Felt my stuff was pretty good. Just command was a little shaky, but [my] hammy was 100 percent.”

Hellickson strained his right hamstring June 3 in Atlanta and has been on the disabled list since. He said the pain in the hamstring subsided shortly after that game against the Braves, and he believed he didn’t even need a rehab outing to begin with. The Nationals, however, tend to hold their players back a little longer whenever they say they are ready. In Hellickson’s case, the 83 pitches he threw Sunday — and the fact that he felt healthy in their aftermath Monday — were enough to convince the Nationals that he is ready to return to the rotation next time through.

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“Definitely,” said Washington Manager Dave Martinez, who added that Hellickson will throw a regular between-starts bullpen session before jumping back into the rotation.

The Nationals have a day off Wednesday, which means they could skip the fifth starter’s spot all together. They will not do that, according to people familiar with the situation. Instead, they plan to give all five starters an extra day of rest. Hellickson will start Saturday in Philadelphia if everything holds.

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When Hellickson signed a minor league deal with the Nationals late in spring training, few would have anticipated the importance he would have for this rotation just a few months later. With Stephen Strasburg out injured and Tanner Roark wrestling mechanical trouble, Hellickson and his 2.28 ERA are suddenly crucial parts of the Nationals’ success. Jefry Rodriguez showed flashes of potential in his first few major league outings, but Hellickson, 31, is a former rookie of the year with a history of sustained success. Washington needs him now.

When Hellickson does return, the Nationals will have a roster decision to make. They already optioned Rodriguez to Class AAA Syracuse, a move they made Monday to clear room for Brandon Kintzler, who returned after a brief stint on the disabled list to alleviate tightness in his forearm. Kintzler threw a scoreless inning for Potomac on Sunday and likely would not be unavailable Monday night for the Nationals’ game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

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But Kintzler’s presence does mean the Nationals have their super bullpen assembled for the first time since last week’s trade for Kelvin Herrera, with Kintzler, Herrera, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle all active at once. They would all be limited Monday after warming up and/or working Sunday. The Nationals’ bullpen in general was worn out after Sunday’s theatrics, and the bench was limited. Because they are playing in an American League park and need a designated hitter, the Nationals’ four-man bench became a three-man bench — though without the need to pinch hit repeatedly, they might not feel the squeeze.


Trea Turner SS

Bryce Harper RF

Anthony Rendon 3B

Juan Soto LF

Michael A. Taylor CF

Mark Reynolds 1B

Wilmer Difo 2B

Pedro Severino C

Adam Eaton DH

(Gio Gonzalez P)


Kevin Kiermaier CF

Matt Duffy 3B

Daniel Robertson LF

Wilson Ramos C

C.J. Cron DH

Jake Bauers 1B

Carlos Gomez RF

Adeiny Hechavarria SS

Willy Adames 2B

(Blake Snell P)