MLB: Paolo Espino looks to end Nats’ rotation misery vs. Reds

The Washington Nationals will try to end a dubious streak on Saturday night when they host the Cincinnati Reds in the middle game of a three-game weekend series.

Washington rookie right-hander Cade Cavalli made his major league debut on Friday and was the losing pitcher in a 7-3 setback. The result extended the Nationals’ big-league record of games without a win by a starting pitcher to 42, dating to Josiah Gray’s victory in Philadelphia on July 6.

Nationals veteran Paolo Espino (0-5, 4.31 ERA) will try to snap that streak and his own drought on Saturday. The right-hander is searching for his first win in his 14th start and 34th appearance overall in 2022.

The Reds will counter with right-hander Luis Cessa (3-2, 5.67), making his second straight start since being moved from the bullpen.

Espino has no decisions and a 5.40 ERA in four career outings (one start) vs. Cincinnati. He made a pair of scoreless, one-inning relief appearances against the Reds in June.

Cessa is 0-0 with a 5.79 ERA in four career appearances vs. Washington, all in relief. He tossed a scoreless inning against the Nationals on June 3.

The Reds might have Nick Senzel back in the lineup on Saturday. The utility man tweaked his left hamstring on Thursday in Cincinnati’s 4-0 loss at Philadelphia and got the day off Friday.

The team will use the final six weeks of 2022 to evaluate how best to use the 2016 first-round second overall draft pick out of Tennessee next season.

“He’s going to continue to play mostly center field,” Cincinnati manager David Bell said. “As things change, getting him playing time in the infield this year could kind of help get him used to that a little bit.

“I think he sees it as something that could be a positive for his career and definitely for our team. He could really help our team being able to do that.”

The Reds’ regular infield currently includes Jonathan India at second, Jose Barrero at short and Kyle Farmer at third. Senzel has played the bulk of his games this season as the starting center fielder. However, Albert Almora Jr. and TJ Friedl have started playing there as the club continues to see if Senzel could be of value elsewhere in the field.

“We’re just kind of easing into it,” said Senzel, who is hitting .245 with four homers and 22 RBIs in 91 games. “I think that’s helpful for the transition. I’m still going to play center field.”

The Nationals got a boost on Friday when 22-year-old star second baseman Luis Garcia returned to the lineup. Garcia, who had been sidelined due to a left groin strain, was reinstated from the 10-day injured list after completing a Triple-A rehab assignment.

Garcia, who hit an RBI single and stole a base on Friday, shifted from shortstop to second base to make room for rookie CJ Abrams.

The Nationals cleared a roster spot for Garcia by cutting Maikel Franco on his 30th birthday.

The veteran infielder signed a minor league contract with Washington in the offseason and earned the starting third base job for Opening Day. He hit .229 with 15 doubles, nine home runs, 39 RBIs, 12 walks and 75 strikeouts in 103 games this year.

“It was tough,” said Washington manager Dave Martinez of cutting Franco. “I love the guy. He was an unbelievable clubhouse (presence), teammate. He did everything. We felt like we’re going in another direction. It’s unfortunate.

“In this game, the toughest part of my job that I have to do is telling somebody that he’s no longer going to be with us.”

Ildemaro Vargas, who doubled and scored in the third inning on Friday, will get a full-time look at third base for the Nationals for the rest of the season.

“We like the way Vargas has been playing,” Martinez said. “We know that Vargas can do a lot of different things in the infield.”

–Field Level Media

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