SAN FRANCISCO — The Nationals, the team that has one day off since the All-Star break has three scheduled off days in the next 14 days, giving them the opportunity to configure their starting rotation a bit differently.
Two turns ago, when the Nationals pushed back right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to allow him an extra day of rest to deal with some minor shoulder inflammation, there was one unintended consequence that they did not like.
It left Ross Detwiler as their No. 5 starter and Gio Gonzalez as their No. 1, their two left-handers stacked together.
But with the off-days, now Johnson can realign things the way he’d like, particularly splitting up those left-handers, and with the calendar in mind.
“(There’s) a lot of reasons,” Johnson said.
In addition to the fact that Johnson prefers not to have his two left-handers following one another for that fact alone, there’s the ripple effect it creates in the bullpen, too. Generally, Johnson follows his left-handed starters with a right-handed long reliever (Craig Stammen) if necessary. With the two left-handers back-to-back that could put an undue strain on Stammen.
There’s also the added bonus of trying to get the match-ups in the Nationals’ favor, especially when it comes to the Atlanta Braves, who the Nationals face at Nationals Park next week.
“At this time of year,” Johnson said, “you even go further out about how you want the pitching to line up coming down that last month.”
The Braves as well as the Mets, do not hit left-handed starters that well. The Braves, in particular, are hitting .246 off left-handed starters, compared to .261 against right-handers. This season, the Nationals are 5-1 against the Braves in games started by either Detwiler or Gonzalez.
“There’s also other clubs that some guys have more success against than others,” Johnson said, noting it’s not just the Braves he’d be looking at when manipulating things. “You look at all that, now there’s a little track record with the rotation. You can tweak it a little bit.”
If he wanted, Johnson could alter the Nationals’ rotation with Thursday’s upcoming offday, and then alter it again with the two more coming before Aug. 28 to set the team up for September.