The Nationals doubleheader with the Pirates this afternoon will leave them needing a starting pitcher Tuesday afternoon and with none of their regular starters on regular rest. They’ll need a spot starter and manager Davey Johnson said Saturday that Ross Detwiler is “most definitely” a candidate for that job.
Tom Gorzelanny’s turn in the rotation will come up on Tuesday but Gorzelanny threw Friday night and that would force him into action on just three days rest. Given that he’s dealt with inflammation in his elbow once already this season, Johnson said he had no plans to allow him to pitch on short rest.
“(We’re going to) make a move,” Johnson said. “I’m not telling you when but it’s too early in the season to be bringing guys back on three days rest.”
Detwiler is the likely candidate for the start and he last pitched Thursday but was pulled after two innings. He’d started that game, though, on just three days of rest giving it all the look of a maintenance outing to get the left-hander on turn for the Nationals opening on Tuesday.
Detwiler has a 6-6 record with a 4.53 ERA in 16 starts with Triple-A Syracuse this season and opponents are hitting .285 off him. Asked if Chiefs left-hander Tom Milone would also be a candidate for the start, Johnson reinforced the idea that Detwiler, who is on the team’s 40-man roster, could be the guy but specified that it would be a spot-start only.
“I’m not saying one of my starters in the rotation,” Johnson said. “(Detwiler’s) a possiblity for that spot start coming up against the Cubs. I like (Milone) too but I think Det’s a little ahead of him and I also think he’s on the roster and the other guy isn’t.”
Detwiler last pitched in the big leagues in 2010, going 1-3 with a 4.25 ERA but appearing three of his eight games as a reliever as well.
Johnson speaks about the Nationals farm system and the players in it with extreme knowledge so he knows what he’s getting in Detwiler. He’d been working his way to each minor league affiliate when the Nationals called and asked if he might be interested in managing their major league club. He’d worked his way through extended spring training, Single-A and had even trekked up to Syracuse to see the Triple-A team but had yet to make it to Double-A Harrisburg when he was needed on the big league staff.
“I like to start kind of low and go up rather than start here and go down,” Johnson said. “I like to see the kids and work my way up. Unfortunately this job interrupted that progression (but) when the club went on the road in the spring, I was over with all the minor league guys getting to know those guys in case (Nationals GM Mike) Rizzo quizzed me on somebody. I wanted to know what he looked like.”
– The Nationals will go into their doubleheader with the Pirates today a man short in their bullpen. Henry Rodriguez was sent home from the park Saturday afternoon with a case of strep throat. Rodriguez reported to the park for work Saturday but was promptly sent home by Johnson and trainer Lee Kuntz so as to prevent anyone else from getting sick.
– Left-hander Doug Slaten, who’s been on the disabled list with left elbow ulnar neuritis since June 4, began throwing for the first time on Friday and reported no pain. He’s just long-tossing right now but expects to throw “almost every day,” and see how he feels after a few days.
– With the doubleheader today, Johnson said he does not expect to play all his position players in both games. Laynce Nix, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond — who have all been dealing with various ailments — were all in the lineup for Game 1. Johnson said he’d check with the players between games but noted that he’d have guys like Rick Ankiel and Brian Bixler on the bench in Game 1 who could easily slide into a starting role in Game 2. Wilson Ramos, who will sit in Game 1, will catch Game 2 while Ivan Rodriguez starts the first game.