- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 4, 2007

Good news: Jason Simontacchi’s injured elbow won’t require surgery, and the right-hander will be able to pitch again for the Washington Nationals this season.

Bad news: The Nationals now must find room for another pitcher in their overflowing starting rotation.

OK, no one with the Nationals really is complaining that Simontacchi’s elbow is structurally sound after an examination by Dr. James Andrews. They were relieved to learn the 33-year-old will be allowed to resume throwing in four to six days and could be back on a major league mound within the next month.

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“That’s what I’m here for,” Simontacchi said with a laugh. “I ain’t here to [just] sit here and pick up paychecks and be nobody on this team. I’m not here for that. I want to play. Yeah, I definitely want to get back as soon as I can.”

But now the Nationals face a potential logjam of starters over the season’s final two months. Simontacchi joins Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann, Micah Bowie and possibly John Patterson as injured pitchers nearing their return from the disabled list. The team already has Matt Chico, Mike Bacsik, John Lannan, Joel Hanrahan and Tim Redding pitching in the major league rotation. And the organization would like to get a look at prospects Collin Balester and Ross Detwiler in September.

How are the Nationals going to find enough starts for everyone?

“That’s a nice problem to have,” general manager Jim Bowden said. “Everyone’s pitched well. We like that problem. We haven’t had that in a while.”

Bowden said there are “about nine guys I’d like to see take the ball.”

Manager Manny Acta realizes that might be impossible, but he would like to see Bergmann (currently making his second stint on the disabled list) return to recapture his form from earlier in the season.

The key, Acta noted, is to make it to Sept. 1, when rosters can be expanded to 40 players.

“We’re going to have to make some decisions,” Acta said. “And hopefully by then, Sept. 1 will be right around the corner.”

Detwiler promoted

Detwiler, the franchise’s top draft pick this summer, has been promoted to Class A Potomac after four successful starts for the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League rookie team.

The 21-year-old left-hander allowed one hit in four innings yesterday in his final GCL start. In his first four professional outings, he had a 2.25 ERA, with 15 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings.

Detwiler now will start for Potomac either Wednesday or Thursday. If all goes well, the Nationals still will consider calling him up to make his major league debut before the end of the season.

“Until we have a reason not to,” Bowden said. “They told me today he gave up one hit, struck out five. … We’re open to it.”

McGeary in town

Right-hander Jack McGeary, the Nationals‘ sixth-round draft pick who remains unsigned, was in town last night and will attend tonight’s game at RFK Stadium as the two sides try to agree to terms on a contract.

McGeary, rated the 27th-best player in the draft by Baseball America, fell to the sixth round because of his strong inclination to attend Stanford this fall unless he received first-round money.

The Nationals have maintained discussions with the Massachusetts native, as well as their other unsigned top pick (lefty Josh Smoker, taken 31st overall) and believe they can still strike a deal with both before the Aug. 15 deadline.

“We’re open to dialogue,” Bowden said. “We like both players and will continue to work and hope that they end up signing with us for fair market value.”

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