WASHINGTON -- The Nationals are still trying to determine the remaining order for their rotation in the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile after officially naming Stephen Strasburg the starter for tonight's Game 1 against the Cubs.
The health of Max Scherzer, who is dealing with a right hamstring injury, will be the deciding factor in how he and Gio Gonzalez line up for Games 2 and 3. Scherzer did not throw a bullpen session on Thursday afternoon, but Gonzalez did throw off the mound, which would almost certainly line Gonzalez up to start Saturday's Game 2 and Scherzer to be pushed back to Monday's Game 3.
The Nationals have said Scherzer was scheduled to test his hamstring injury off a mound for each of the past two days; however, both times he has played catch in the outfield on flat ground. Scherzer has been puzzled by his hamstring issue, which he says does not bother him running or doing any other activity other than pushing off a mound. But he has not thrown a bullpen session the past few days.
"When you have a nagging injury, every day is important for our trainers to evaluate it, put hands on him, and see if he's still sore or if he's feeling great," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.
Although the Nationals have Strasburg to fill in the gap for Game 1, losing the ability to pitch Scherzer twice in the series is a blow. Scherzer is a leading candidate for the NL Cy Young Award after going 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA and an NL-leading 268 strikeouts. He has been one of the best pitchers in the Majors over the past few seasons.
Ideally, Washington would have Scherzer throw one of the first two games to ensure he could pitch in a potential Game 5, but Baker said his health will still be the No. 1 priority.
"We realize that if [Scherzer] pitched Game 2, he could probably pitch Game 5 if necessary," Baker said. "We realize that, but is that worth taking a chance? And if you get past the first round, then are you jeopardizing the second round? So you have to kind of weigh both. But you know, the health of Max -- I think -- is number one."
Robles makes postseason roster; Goodwin says he's healthy
Victor Robles, the Nationals' top prospect, has made the team's postseason roster, a source told MLB.com Thursday, bringing his exciting speed to the team's bench. Robles, the No. 2 prospect in MLB as rated by MLBPipeline.com, played in 13 games for Washington as a September callup, which was enough to impress.
His two triples this season were two of the three fastest triples by a Nationals player ever recorded by Statcast™. His inclusion on the roster is unlikely to affect outfielder Brian Goodwin (groin strain), who says he feels healthy after playing instructional league games for a week at the team's complex in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Goodwin participated in baserunning and fielding drills and got controlled at-bats against Minor League pitching.
"I think I'm in a good place," Goodwin said. "I got a chance to get a ton of at-bats [against] a lot of pitchers down there working on stuff trying to get better. I got the opportunity to go down there and see a lot of it and work with a lot of it, so I think my timing is where I want it to be, where I would expect it to be."
Now the Nationals must determine if Goodwin, who has not played a game in the Majors since Aug. 13, has shown enough to make their postseason bench. He hit .251 with 13 homers and 30 RBIs in 251 at-bats.
"He's been great for us this season," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He's a guy that if he's healthy and ready, we'd like to see him on the roster."
Flexibility out of the bullpen
As Nationals right-hander Brandon Kintzler prepares for his first career postseason series, he has taken note of the different ways relievers have been used in October, particularly in the past few years. He brought up how David Robertson threw 50 pitches in his longest career outing in the Yankees' victory over the Twins in the American League Wild Card Game.
Kintzler said he plans to have a conversation with Baker or pitching coach Mike Maddux about when they plan to use him in games, so he can prepare. Washington has used Kintzler along with Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle to close out the end of games over the final three innings; however, Kintzler said he would be open to coming into the game earlier if the situation called for it.
"I mean, why not? I'm here to win," Kintzler said. "I think we got traded for these situations."
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.