The Washington Nationals will “probably” start Ross Ohlendorf on Sunday night when they take on the New York Mets on ESPN. That decision is not cast in stone, and if the Nationals do not need rookie Tanner Roark in relief on Thursday or Friday, he could still be tabbed for the start.
But one option that appears to have been ruled out is starting right-hander Stephen Strasburg a day early, on three days rest. Strasburg threw just 22 pitches on Wednesday night before a 72-minute rain delay ended his night. There was a possibility the Nationals opted to bring him back early because of it.
But Johnson said Thursday that instead of uprooting Strasburg’s routine, the team will keep him on his regular turn.
“It’s changing what he’s used to,” Johnson said. “It’s not something that has to be decided right now. We’ll see how he feels playing catch over the next couple of days. It can always change.”
It is likely, however, that either Ohlendorf or Roark will get the start instead and Strasburg will start Monday in Philadelphia as scheduled.
One thing that was clear as the Nationals went for the sweep over the Marlins, however, is that all of the starting pitching inconsistencies of late, combined with multiple extra-inning games in the last few weeks, is putting a significant strain on the bullpen.
They were tasked with 12 innings in the first two games of this series alone. And between extra-inning games, ejections and ineffectiveness on the road trip, they’ve carried a heavy load the last few weeks.
“We’re getting out money’s worth, that’s for sure,” right-hander Craig Stammen said with a laugh. “We’re all asking for a little bit of a raise after the last couple of weeks.
“No, we’re managing it. We know our roles. We know we’re going to pitch a lot, especially if we get back into playoff contention.”
Johnson admitted Thursday it’s been difficult to manage his bullpen this season, particularly of late given what’s been required of them. When a reliever, like Stammen or Roark, has to go two or three innings, that makes them — most likely — unavailable the next day. If that happens several times in a week, it can cause problems.
But Johnson hasn’t heard very many (if any) complaints.
“Whatever it is, I’ll do it,” Stammen said. “I don’t really get too worked up about if I’m pitching every other day or whatever. Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it.”