- The Washington Times - Monday, June 29, 2009

— The roster move to clear space for Scott Olsen’s return from the disabled list happened Sunday afternoon as expected. The pitcher sent down by the Washington Nationals, however, was not expected.

Rookie starter Shairon Martis - not one of the Nationals’ struggling relievers - was shipped out following Sunday’s win over the Baltimore Orioles, a move that had a domino effect on the club’s pitching staff.

Martis, who struggled in Saturday night’s loss to Baltimore, was optioned to Class AAA Syracuse to work out some kinks. Olsen, who had been on the 15-day DL since May 17 with shoulder tendinitis, was activated and is slated to start Monday at Florida. And Craig Stammen, who was told Saturday he was headed to Washington’s bullpen, will remain in the rotation and start Tuesday.

“He’s been a quality starting pitcher for us,” acting general manager Mike Rizzo said of Stammen. “And we thought he deserved the opportunity to stay in the rotation.”

“I’ll do whatever,” a surprised Stammen said. “Whatever they want me to do.”

Martis, who made the club out of spring training and opened the season 5-0, did not take the news as well. He was consoled by teammates after learning his fate and declined to talk to reporters before departing.

The move, while unexpected, confirmed the organization’s growing fears about Martis’ development. The 22-year-old right-hander hadn’t won in his past eight starts and posted a 6.34 ERA in that span. Rizzo said he had been contemplating the move “for a while,” but Martis’ ragged, five-inning start Saturday made the decision easier.

“Shairon has to go down and improve on what got him here and what [got] him on the club out of spring training,” Rizzo said. “Pound the strike zone, execute his pitches and get ahead of the hitters.”

Said manager Manny Acta: “I think [Saturday’s] game had something to do with it, but it’s been somewhat of a trend.”

Olsen, meanwhile, returns to Washington’s rotation after four rehab starts, including a strong, six-inning outing last week for Syracuse. One encouraging sign: Olsen’s velocity has been up, and he hit 92 mph at least once in every rehab start.

“We want to see the consistency that made him a 200-inning guy last year in Florida,” Acta said. “It’s kind of a stretch to say, but he’s the older guy on this staff, and we’re expecting him to lead these young guys.”

Langerhans traded

The Nationals swapped minor leaguers with the Mariners, sending outfielder Ryan Langerhans to Seattle for infielder Mike Morse.

Langerhans had long been an odd man out with Washington, unable to crack the big league roster and stick given the organization’s excess of outfielders. A gifted defensive player at all three positions, he hit just .212 in 176 games with the Nationals in 2007 and 2008.

Morse, 27, is an offense-minded utilityman who owns a .300 average in 107 big league games. He was hitting .312 with 10 homers and 52 RBI in 66 games with Class AAA Tacoma, splitting time among shortstop, second base and third base.

Morse, who is not on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, will report to Syracuse. Rizzo said he’ll be used at the four corner infield and outfield positions.

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