- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2008

With Odalis Perez likely to miss his next start (if not his next two) with shoulder tendinitis, the Washington Nationals likely will welcome a starting pitcher from the Class AAA Columbus Clippers to the big leagues for a brief appearance this weekend.

Exactly who it will be is still in question, but the team certainly has some options.

After pitching two shutout innings and leaving his Wednesday start early, Tyler Clippard stands out as the obvious choice. The right-hander was 4-1 with a 1.91 earned-run average in May and leads the Nationals organization with 59 strikeouts this season. He started the season 0-3 but has allowed just seven runs in his last 41 innings, and has pitched in the majors before.

Garrett Mock and Collin Balester - the other two pitchers who headline the Columbus rotation after battling for a big league spot in spring training - also could make strong cases for their major league debuts. Mock has a 3.06 ERA in 11 starts, and has walked just 13 hitters in 61 2/3 innings. Balester left his start Tuesday in the sixth inning with a bruised hand but is still on track to start for the Clippers on Sunday, which is when Washington would need a starter.

He has won five of his last six decisions, posting a 3.30 ERA in the last three.

There’s always a chance the Nationals could recall Mike O’Connor, who struggled in a spot start last month. O’Connor is 3-1 with a 2.06 ERA for Columbus this season but has given up 13 earned runs in nine innings with the Nationals.

Injuries hit Harrisburg

The big league club isn’t the only part of the Nationals organization dealing with a rash of injuries. Three of their top prospects with Class AA Harrisburg landed on the disabled list last week.

Harrisburg placed shortstop Ian Desmond on the DL on Wednesday with a right wrist injury, less than a week after putting outfielder Justin Maxwell there with a similar injury. Both are expected to be there at least a month. And Cory VanAllen, who has battled forearm soreness, landed on the DL on Thursday.

Suns have three All-Stars

The Hagerstown Suns, Washington’s low Class A affiliate, will send three players to the South Atlantic League All-Star Game on June 17 in Greensboro, N.C.

Outfielder Michael Burgess, whose 12 homers are the most in the Nationals organization, will start in right field. Bill Rhinehart will start at first base - his 49 RBI are second in the SAL - and catcher Sean Rooney was selected as a reserve.

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