The Washington Nationals have promoted right-handed starting pitcher Jackson Rutledge to make his big-league debut on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team announced. In a corresponding move, right-handed pitcher Mason Thompson was optioned back to Triple-A Rochester.
The Nationals have an open spot in their rotation after placing left-hander MacKenzie Gore on the injured list with a blister. Rutledge had been scratched from his start over the weekend, clearly with an eye on him moving up and taking at least a start at the big-league level, depending on when Gore makes his return to the active roster.
Rutledge, 24, had split the season between Double- and Triple-A. In 23 combined starts, he had amassed a 3.71 ERA and a 1.93 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Rutledge had displayed trouble with finding the zone on a consistent basis over his 11 Triple-A starts, averaging 5.3 walks per nine innings. For perspective, his 13.3% walk rate would be the second-highest in the majors among starting pitchers, trailing only San Diego Padres lefty Blake Snell (13.7%).
Per ball-tracking data, Rutledge has relied on a mid-90s sinker and a low-80s slider. It's worth noting that his sinker has what can be described as "dead zone" characteristics, or a similar amount of horizontal and vertical break. Past studies have indicated that such fastballs tend to underperform, as batters find it easier to track the pitch.
The Nationals originally drafted Rutledge with the 17th pick in 2019 by way of San Jacinto College in Houston. Baseball America recently placed Rutledge as the seventh best prospect in the Nationals system as part of the publication's midseason top-30 rankings update.