- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2007

DENVER — The Washington Nationals appear ready to make the first of several expected changes to their rotation, with rookie John Lannan about to be shut down and right-hander Jason Bergmann about to rejoin the team from the disabled list.

General manager Jim Bowden said Bergmann, fresh off a seven-inning rehab start Thursday night for Class AAA Columbus, will meet the team in Los Angeles on Monday. He wouldn’t go so far to name Bergmann as Tuesday’s starter against the Dodgers, but it appears the now-healthy pitcher is lined up to take over Lannan’s spot in the rotation.

Bowden said he got “tremendous reports” on Bergmann after his latest outing Thursday. The right-hander pitched seven shutout innings and struck out nine batters in his sharpest performance since landing on the 15-day disabled list July 25 with a strained left hamstring.

“He’s ready to go,” Bowden said. “He’ll be on a plane Sunday. He’ll meet us in L.A.”

Lannan has already thrown 1571/3 innings this season (most in his pitching career) and will be shut down for precautionary reasons. The 22-year-old labored through a five-inning start Thursday in Houston, walking five while struggling to command his fastball. Though the young left-hander has impressed team officials with his meteoric rise through the Nationals’ system this year — climbing from Class A Potomac to Class AA Harrisburg to Columbus to Washington in a span of four months — he never has thrown more than 146 innings in a single season.

Though Lannan has exhibited no signs of fatigue, the Nationals don’t want to take any chances.

“There’s been no final decision, except to say we’re monitoring his innings closely,” Bowden said. “We’re going to take care of him. We know what the history is of progression of innings pitched, and we want to be careful.”

Pitching setbacks

A pair of injured Nationals right-handers experienced setbacks in their rehab programs over the last few days and are being shut down.

John Patterson complained of soreness in his forearm after throwing off a mound in Viera, Fla., according to head trainer Lee Kuntz. Out since May 6 with a compressed nerve in his arm, Patterson is currently receiving muscle relaxation treatment but won’t be allowed to throw again until the soreness subsides.

Meanwhile, Jason Simontacchi had a similar setback in Viera, complaining of pain in his right elbow. He’s due to be examined Monday in Birmingham, Ala., by orthopedist James Andrews. He likely will undergo season-ending surgery Tuesday to remove a bone spur in the elbow.

According to Bowden, Simontacchi’s elbow ligaments are “fine” and he won’t require any more serious surgical procedures.

Help is on the way

Rosters can be expanded from 25 to 40 a week from today, and the Nationals figure to get a good amount of help for the stretch run from their minor league system.

Bowden wouldn’t say how many players will be promoted, but the team is likely to add several pitchers. They may only add one or two offensive players.

“It’ll be pitching-emphasized, because we need pitching depth so we don’t burn out our players in September,” Bowden said. “We’ve gone through our bullpen pretty strong. We’ve gone through a lot of starters. We’ve got to have pitching here. It’s a necessity. It’ll be pitching heavy. Heavy, heavy, heavy pitching. We’ve got to protect our arms for a long time.”

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