PHILADELPHIA -- The Nationals optioned outfielder Michael Taylor to Triple-A Syracuse in order to make room for Jeremy Guthrie, their starting pitcher for Saturday's game against the Phillies.
Guthrie made his Nationals debut on his 38th birthday, marking the first time he has appeared in the Majors since 2015. He entered Nationals camp as a non-roster invitee and impressed the team enough to earn this spot start. But the righty allowed 10 runs on six hits and four walks in just two-thirds of an inning in the 17-3 loss.
Initially, right-hander Joe Ross had been slated to be in the Nationals' rotation before he was optioned to the Minors before the start of the season so the team could carry an extra bench player. But Ross was ineligible for this start because he must remain in the Minors for at least 10 days, and the earliest he can return is Wednesday. Taylor did not appear in any of the team's first four games.
Ross made his first start for Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday and allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits in 2 2/3 innings with three strikeouts and three walks.
Manager Dusty Baker refuted any notion of a competition for the fifth starter's spot between Guthrie and Ross. Keeping Guthrie in the organization allows the Nationals to maintain some starting pitching depth, and starting Ross in the Minors helps the team monitor his innings in an effort to make it through a full season.
"Joe will be back," Baker said. "It's not a competition so much between Joe and Guthrie because Joe's future is so bright."
By optioning Taylor to the Minors, the Nationals are left without a true backup center fielder for the time being, although Chris Heisey has limited action in center during the past few years and Wilmer Difo worked out in center field this spring. Ultimately, the Nationals wanted Taylor to get regular at-bats in the Minors.
"That was a tough decision because Michael, he's probably as talented, or in the top three, of anybody on the field, including their team," Baker said. "It's just a matter of him getting some at-bats."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.