The Washington Times - May 18, 2013, 08:13PM

SAN DIEGO — Left-handed long reliever Zach Duke will get the spot start in place of Ross Detwiler on Monday in San Francisco as Detwiler deals with a right oblique strain and the Nationals gauge how long he may need to recover.

Detwiler was sent for a third MRI on his back on Saturday and it confirmed the initial diagnosis of a slight oblique strain. Detwiler was feeling better, though, and the Nationals were somewhat optimistic that he may avoid the disabled list.

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With Duke starting in his place on Monday, and an off-day on Thursday, the Nationals could skip Detwiler’s spot in the rotation the next time through, and the Nationals wouldn’t need a fifth starter again until May 30 in Baltimore. 

“A specialist was looking at him,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s feeling better, so that’s the good news. He says it’s not pulling as bad as it has been.

“I have to prepare for the contingency that he will only miss one start, if that’s the case, with the off-day, I just need that one spot and we’ll go from there… We just need to find out what’s causing it.”

The Nationals were expecting to know by post-game on Saturday whether Detwiler would necessitate a stint on the disabled list, and they would proceed accordingly from there regarding a call-up. When they got the results of the third MRI they said there was no current roster move.

Johnson tabbed Duke for Monday’s start, as opposed to right-handed long man Craig Stammen, mostly because Stammen has been one of the Nationals’ best relievers this season and the manager was reluctant to remove him from a role that he’s had such great success in.

Duke, who was a starter throughout his career until his September call-up with the Nationals in 2012, has appeared in just nine games this season and thrown a total of 15 innings. The lack of work was one reason Johnson cited for going with Duke, because he feels as though he hasn’t been able to get him enough work to keep the left-hander sharp. 

“This will help him get back to where he needs to be (and doesn’t mess with Stammen),” Johnson said. “Kills two birds with one stone, really.”

Duke, who threw a bullpen session on Saturday to get himself set-up for the start, was excited by the opportunity and it was one of the possibilities discussed when he signed a one-year deal with the Nationals in the offseason — the chance to fill-in when necessary.

“I just want to give the team a chance to win,” Duke said. “It’s unfortunate, Ross’s situation, but I’m excited for the opportunity. 

“I’ve always said I’m a pitcher and no matter what the role is, it’s my job to get people out. This is a little more usual for me, but its’ one of those things where I’m not going to get used to it.”

In his career, Duke is 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in four appearances at AT&T Park (three starts) and he has pitched well against the Giants in his career, too, with a 3.79 ERA in eight starts (10 appearances).