- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2009

Scott Olsen’s strained latissimus dorsi, which Washington Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman hoped wouldn’t turn into a major issue, has become a big enough concern to take the left-hander out of the rotation for the next two weeks.

The Nationals put Olsen on the 15-day disabled list Sunday and called up right-hander J.D. Martin from Class AAA Syracuse to take his place. Martin will make his major league debut Monday, but the bigger concern, at least for now, is what the injury might do to the rest of Olsen’s season.

The 25-year-old missed five weeks earlier this year with left shoulder tendinitis, but the Nationals won’t know at the earliest until after a Monday examination whether this injury is connected to the previous one.

Acting general manager Mike Rizzo said Olsen, who was originally supposed to pitch Friday, reported continued soreness after a long-toss session, at which point the Nationals started to consider their options.

“I figured coming off the injury before and when he can’t long-toss after his start, that’s a red flag,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo said Martin, 26, was the top option all along to replace Olsen. He was 8-3 with a 2.66 ERA at Syracuse.

Rizzo said he told Martin he would get a chance to pitch in the big leagues if he fared well at Syracuse. He’s not an overpowering pitcher and succeeds chiefly by good command of a sinking fastball.

“He’s gone through a lot of trials and tribulations with arm problems and that type of thing,” Rizzo said. “He’s a kid who’s had to scratch and claw for everything he’s got. He pitched extremely well in Triple-A, and he deserves an opportunity to show what he can do on the major league level.”

In another major league roster move, the club designated Julian Tavarez for assignment and recalled Logan Kensing.

Storen promoted

The Nationals promoted right-hander Drew Storen, whom they took with the 10th pick in June’s draft, from Class A Hagerstown to Class A Potomac after Sunday’s game.

Storen had struck out 26 without a walk in 14 2/3 innings at Hagerstown, posting a 3.68 ERA. If he makes another quick move to Class AA Harrisburg, it’s possible the reliever could make his big league debut this season.

Rizzo backs Kearns

Austin Kearns, who is hitting .199 and since May 3 has driven in just four RBI, has become a popular candidate to get released if the Nationals can’t trade him by the end of the month. The outfielder is making $8 million this season with a $10 million option for next year. On Aug. 1, 2008, the Nationals released veterans Felipe Lopez and Paul Lo Duca (who were making a combined $9.9 million) after they couldn’t trade either player.

Asked whether Kearns could face a similar fate, Rizzo hedged his words.

“[Lopez and Lo Duca] weren’t released simply because they were unproductive,” Rizzo said. “To me, that’s a 180-degree difference with Austin Kearns. Austin Kearns gives you [an] above-average right-field defender, one of the feared throwing arms in baseball, and he’s a hell of a guy in the clubhouse. Yeah, he’s struggled mightily with the bat, but he’s a high-character guy and a good teammate.”

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