New Opportunity With Nationals Excites Thad Ward

Eventually, righthander Thad Ward could join the Nationals’ rotation. But as a Rule 5 draft pick who hasn’t pitched above Double-A, his likely path is to settle in as a multi-inning reliever first.

Though all 51 of Ward’s appearances in the Red Sox organization were as a starter, he’s eager to pitch in any situations that will make him a big leaguer.

“My attitude is to go out and make the team—do everything I can to not go back,” Ward said. “I’m going to show the Nationals I can add value and help the team in whatever role they put me.”

Washington took the 25-year-old with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft. The 6-foot-3, 192-pound Ward impressed the Nationals with his performance over the final 10 weeks of the minor league season with Double-A Portland and four outings in the Arizona Fall League.

Ward has to make the Nationals’ major league roster or else be waived. If he goes unclaimed, he will be offered back to Boston for $50,000.

After missing most of two seasons because of Tommy John surgery, Ward returned to the mound on July 1 and reached Double-A on Aug. 4. With Portland he posted a 2.43 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 14 walks in 33.1 innings. He pitched at least five innings in five of his last six starts.

Ward remained primarily a starter as he pitched to a 2.84 ERA in 12.2 innings in the AFL, with his lone relief appearance as a piggyback pitcher following another starter. He throws a 91-94 mph sinker, four-seam fastball, cutter, slider, changeup and curveball.

“I’m sure adjustments will be made after I have conversations with the team and see where they value each pitch,” Ward said.

Boston’s fifth-round pick in 2018 out of Central Florida, Ward said he and his wife Courtney enjoyed their time in Arizona, particularly meeting new people. He is excited to learn new things this spring at Nationals camp in West Palm Beach, Fla.

“I already have a workout program and a throwing program,” Ward said, “and the Nationals have set me up with an app that all their pitchers use.”



— The Nationals claimed second baseman Jeter Downs on waivers from the Red Sox. The 24-year-old went 6-for-39 in his MLB debut season in 2022. He was a supplemental first-round pick of the Reds in 2017 out of Pace High in Miami Gardens.

— Shortstop Jordy Barley joined Licey this winter toward the end of their first-place run through the regular season in the Dominica League. He remained on their roster for the four-team semifinal round robin. Barley stole 34 bases in 38 attempts in 2022 at High-A Wilmington while hitting .203/.257/.288 in 295 at-bats.

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