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Surprise move: Martis sent down

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The roster move to clear space for Scott Olsen’s return from the disabled list happened this afternoon as expected. The name of the pitcher sent down by the Nationals, however, was not expected.

Rookie starter Shairon Martis — not one of the Nationals’ struggling relievers — was shipped out following today’s 5-3 win over the Orioles, a move that had a domino effect on the club’s pitching staff.

Martis, who struggled in last night’s loss to Baltimore, was optioned to Class AAA Syracuse to work out some kinks. Olsen, who had been on the 15-day DL since May 17 with shoulder tendinitis, was activated and will start tomorrow night at Florida. And Craig Stammen, who yesterday was told he was headed to Washington’s bullpen, instead will remain in the rotation and start Tuesday against the Marlins.

“He’s been a quality starting pitcher for us,” acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. “And we thought he deserved the opportunity to stay in the rotation.”

“I’ll do whatever,” a surprised Stammen said. “Whatever they want me to do.”

Martis, who made the club out of spring training and opened the season 5-0, did not take the news as well. He was consoled by teammates after learning his fate and declined to talk to media members before departing the ballpark.

The move, while unexpected, did confirm the organization’s growing fears about Martis’ development. Despite his strong start to the season, the 22-year-old right-hander hadn’t won in his last eight starts and posted a 6.34 ERA over that span. Rizzo said he had been contemplating the move “for a while,” but Martis’ ragged, five-inning start last night helped make the decision easier.

“Shairon has to go down and improve on what got him here and what [got] him on the club out of spring training,” Rizzo said. “Pound the strike zone, execute his pitches and get ahead of the hitters.”

Said manager Manny Acta: “I think yesterday’s game had something to do with it, but it’s been somewhat of a trend.”

Olsen, meanwhile, returns to Washington’s rotation after four rehab starts, including a strong, six-inning outing last week for Syracuse. One encouraging sign: Olsen’s velocity has been up, and he hit 92 mph at least once in every rehab start.

“We want to see the consistency that made him a 200-inning guy last year in Florida,” Acta said of the left-hander, who was 0-4 with a 7.24 ERA before landing on the DL. “It’s kind of a stretch to say, but he’s the older guy on this staff and we’re expecting him to lead these young guys.”

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Mark Zuckerman

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