The Washington Nationals are still undecided on who will start Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers but it appears right-handers Craig Stammen and Chien-Ming Wang are the primary candidates to take on the task.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he’d prefer to start a right-hander against the Brewers, taking lefty Zach Duke seemingly out of the conversation. Wang has not pitched in a game since he returned to the Nationals’ active roster on Sept. 4 and he hasn’t appeared in a major league game for the Nationals since June 30, when he appeared in relief. His stamina could be an issue.
“It depends on these next couple games,” Johnson said before Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Dodgers. “Could be a guy that’s in my bullpen. I probably won’t bring anybody back short.”
For Stammen, it would be a departure from how the Nationals have used him all season. A former starter, Stammen made the Nationals’ 25-man roster out of spring training as a long reliever, the right-handed complement to the left-handed Tom Gorzelanny.
But as injuries and some ineffectiveness took its toll on the Nationals’ bullpen early in the year, Stammen has been used in all manner of ways. He’s been called on in high-leverage situations, low-leverage situations, one-inning appearances, multi-inning appearances, extra-inning appearances.
“I always said I’d do whatever they ask me to do,” Stammen said. “So I guess that’s part of the job description.”
Asked if he’d be comfortable starting a game now, after not having done so in such a long period, Stammen smiled and shrugged. “Sure,” he said.
From a neighboring locker, Drew Storen looked on with a shocked face. “You’ll have to move your locker,” he quipped, referring to the fact that the starting pitchers’ lockers reside across the clubhouse. From the other side, Tyler Clippard chimed in as well. “(Davey) doesn’t want me to start?” he asked, unable to keep from laughing.
“It might be a Johnny Wholestaff day,” Stammen said. He added that he’d be more likely to approach it as a reliever, with the mentality he’s had all year, than to alter things and think like a starter, who has to approach things with a more long-term mentality and worry about the second and third times through the lineup.
“It’s been a while since I started a baseball game so, we’ll see how that goes.”
Johnson talks constantly about how strong Stammen is and how he has no qualms about throwing him into any situation. He’s one reliever he finds himself worrying little about bringing back several days in a row and feels comfortable allowing him to throw multiple innings.
But Stammen hasn’t thrown more than 62 pitches in a game this season and that was his season-high by 17 pitches. He’s thrown 40-plus on two occasions, most recently on Aug. 28.
He was unsure how far he’d be able to take the Nationals, should he get the start.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “In my head I think I could throw as many as I wanted to throw. I don’t know what my body will feel. I think I could go a while. I definitely would try to get through five (innings). There’s no use starting if you can’t get through five. Just as a personal pride thing. You never know. Might get through a couple quick innings. We’ll see.”