A few notes as the Nationals attempt to adjust back to eastern time time after 11 days on the left coast…
– Tom Gorzelanny gave up a three-run homer to Jesus Montero tonight in his rehab start with Triple-A Syracuse, part of a four-inning, four-earned run performance in his first live action since taking the loss in Milwaukee three weeks ago. Gorzelanny, who’d been on the disabled list with left elbow inflammation, struggled with allowing home runs before the injury as well.
While Gorzelanny had been a consistently solid starter for the Nationals at times, including a three-game stretch where he allowed just three earned runs in 21 1/3 innings that spanned three starts, he’d also allowed 11 home runs in nine starts and had twice been tagged for three home runs in a game.
Gorzelanny could execute every pitch he wanted in an outing except for the two belt-high fastballs he’d leave down the middle. He admitted that although he didn’t feel like he was making many mistakes, when he did, “bad things” would happen.
Yunesky Maya has been taking Gorzelanny’s starts in the Nationals rotation and, so far, has produced two lackluster outings and, most recently, the finest of his major league career. Gorzelanny is already eligible to come off the disabled list but if the Nationals are looking for results, he’ll likely make at least one more minor league rehab start before being activated. Maya will pitch Tuesday and the spot will come up again on Sunday.
– Speaking of Maya, Tuesday could be the biggest test for him as he looks to build off a six inning start against the Giants where he limited them to one earned run and was the most effective he’s been in a major league uniform. That performance, however, came against one of the worst offensive units in the National League and until that point Maya had given little reason to hope he’d become the talent the Nationals expected when they signed him to a major league deal last summer.
Tuesday, though, he’ll face the St. Louis Cardinals and an offense with the best average and on-base percentage in the National League. If it is truly a matter of tempo and aggressiveness, as Maya has insisted after each start, that theory will certainly be tested against the likes of Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols.
– Ryan Zimmerman is expected to be activated on Tuesday before the Nationals open a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Nationals were 27-31 in the 58 games Zimmerman missed and they’ll welcome him back with open arms.
They’ll also need to make a corresponding roster move. The likely candidate is infielder Brian Bixler simply because he has an option remaining. Bixler signed a minor league deal with the Nationals this offseason and was added to the 40-man roster on April 23.
He’s been used mostly in pinch running situations but had a good game Saturday when he played the full game for just the third time since being recalled. Saturday, as a late replacement for Roger Bernadina (who had a tight left hamstring) Bixler hit ninth and got on base three different times via two hits and a walk.
He’s a speedy player who’s first three hits of the season were all infield hits and the main thing that may work in Bixler’s favor is that he’s a right-handed bat off the bench and in the outfield, but with Zimmerman back, Jerry Hairston Jr. goes back to filling that role.
The Nationals had not yet made official Zimmerman’s activation and thus had not announced the corresponding move but we’ll find out soon enough.