Clippard to start Saturday?

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The Nationals haven’t formally named their starting pitcher for Saturday’s game in Seattle, but all signs point to Tyler Clippard returning from Class AAA Columbus and making another fill-in start for left-hander Odalis Perez (who is likely headed to the DL with shoulder tendinitis). Perez missed his last outing because of the shoulder woes, and though he has played catch this week in Pittsburgh, it doesn’t look like he’ll be ready in time to start Saturday. If he’s placed on the DL, the move can be retroactive to June 4 (the day after the last time he pitched), so he could still return within another week or so. Thus, Clippard faces the likelihood of another quick up-and-down trip to the big leagues. The right-hander came up from Columbus on Monday when the Nats needed a fill-in starter and allowed three runs over 4 1/3 innings. He wasn’t particularly sharp, especially in walking four batters, but he struck out six and didn’t hurt his standing within the organization too much. He also has some previous big-league experience and is on schedule to start Saturday anyways, regardless of where the game is. Makes more sense than holding Garrett Mock (scheduled to start Friday for Columbus) back and calling him back up for a one-time, spot start. Meanwhile, it looks like Paul Lo Duca could be ready to return from the DL this weekend. Currently on rehab, his broken right hand has healed and he’s ready to play. What does that mean for the Nats’ catching situation? Well, Manny Acta wasn’t biting when the question was posed this morning, but he gave a strong sense that Lo Duca and Jesus Flores will share the job moving forward. Really, there’s no other answer. Flores has proven that he deserves to be up here, and he remains the future of this franchise. Lo Duca understands that and appears to be willing to take on a diminished role. Plus, with the Nats playing in AL cities Seattle and Minneapolis over the next week, they’re going to need a DH. Lo Duca could fill that role at times. The question now becomes whether the Nats want to part ways with Wil Nieves (who is out of options but has become beloved inside the clubhouse for his catching prowess) or go with three catchers and option someone else to Columbus (like Kory Casto). The hunch here is that Nieves stays, especially because that allows Acta to use Lo Duca or Flores as pinch-hitters off the bench while still keeping an emergency catcher available. So with that, here’s today’s lineup against the Pirates for this early, 12:35 p.m. tilt at PNC Park. Note how Acta is fielding nine right-handed hitters against Pittsburgh lefty Tom Gorzelanny… SS Guzman RF Dukes CF Milledge 1B Boone 3B Belliard LF Pena 2B Lopez C Nieves P Bergmann

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Mark Zuckerman

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