JUPITER, Fla. — As the Washington Nationals inch ever-closer to Opening Day, they are unable to fully set their pitchers’ schedules for the last few weeks of spring with 40 percent of their rotation still away at the World Baseball Classic. And the Nationals are at the mercy of the WBC when it comes to figuring out when Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler will pitch.
This has led manager Davey Johnson to handle the situation with something of a trusting shrug, putting his faith in the pitching coaches for Team USA, Greg Maddux and Marcel Lachemann. It has given Steve McCatty a few moments of pause, though, as he furiously pencils in possibilities and then is forced to erase them.
“I said, ‘McCatty, don’t even go with that little pencil on your calendar, because you don’t know what they’ll end up throwing,’” Johnson said Friday, calling McCatty “Mother Hen.”
In truth, the Nationals have very little power in this situation. They can prevent their pitchers from being overworked, declining permission if they’re asked if a pitcher can throw more than the rules dictate, but the folks in charge with Team USA are aware of how much work each pitcher needs and they’ve done their best to give them a chance to do it.
But they don’t know when they’ll be back in Nationals camp, and they don’t know when exactly they’ll be used in the WBC. Detwiler could be used Friday night, in relief of starter Ryan Vogelsong, much the way he was in his first outing in the tournament, last Saturday. But Detwiler, who hasn’t thrown more than 60 pitches, is already working with an extra day of rest and if he doesn’t pitch Friday it’s unclear when his next opportunity will be.
Gonzalez, on the other hand, will likely pitch on March 19 if Team USA beats Puerto Rico on Friday night in what could potentially be the WBC championship game. That would put him on six days of rest as well. But if USA loses to Puerto Rico, Gonzalez will be back in Nationals camp to make his regularly-scheduled start on March 17. Right now, Ryan Perry is slated to get that start if Gonzalez is still away.
All the Nationals really know, at this point, is that both pitchers will likely be back with them on March 20.
“I am sure that between Lachemann and Maddux, their throwing program is just like what they’d be doing here and they’ve had plenty of mound work under the tutelage of two great pitching coaches,” Johnson said, adding that his concern level remains low because he feels both pitchers, at this point in the spring, are just “putting the final touches on things.”
“I’m not concerned at all about that. I’m sure both of them are learning from some guys who know a lot about pitching. I think it’s a great experience and whatever work schedule they’re on, I’m not the least bit worried about it. Now, Mother Hen? She’s got the erasers out and got about 4-5 pages on all this. But he doesn’t have the information to be able to put it together and he won’t until we’ll probably know for sure after Sunday.”