The Nationals, five games out in the National League East after the Atlanta Braves lost Wednesday afternoon, may be in position to start another mini-surge before the all-star break hits Sunday. After Gio Gonzalez won last night, Jordan Zimmermann goes tonight, followed by Stephen Strasburg on Friday in Miami. The Nationals are 34-20 when Gonzalez, Zimmermann or Strasburg starts.
Of course, that means the Nationals are 13-24 when they do not start. The back of the Nationals’ rotation is littered with question marks. Ross Detwiler was excellent for six weeks, but a pair of injuries derailed him, and he is slated to return from his second disabled list stint after the break. Dan Haren showed promise Monday night, but his ERA still stands at 6.00 and he just recovered from mild shoulder inflammation.
Taylor Jordan has given the Nationals a chance to win in all three of his starts, but he is still a 24-year-old rookie straight from Class AA. He will be placed on an as-yet-undefined innings limit, General Manager Mike Rizzo said. The Nationals have “general parameters” for regulating Jordan’s innings, Rizzo said.
Last season, Jordan threw only 54 1/3 innings at minor league affiliates in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. With his work in extended spring training and other venues, the Nationals pegged his 2012 total at around 80 to 90 innings. Between the majors and minors this year, Jordan has already thrown 106 innings.
Beyond Detwiler, Haren and Jordan, the Nationals have in-house options Ross Ohlendorf, currently a long reliever, and right-hander Nate Karns, who filled in for Detwiler to uneven results in late May.
It is easy to see why many rival scouts and executives expect the Nationals to push to add a starter before the July 31 trade deadline. Yesterday, though, Manager Davey Johnson expressed faith in what the Nationals already have.
“We have the talent here to do it,” Johnson said. “It’s all about the guys doing what they’re capable of. Obviously, one of the areas we have very little depth in is starting pitching. But after this year, and early into next year, some of our young starters should be knocking at the door.
“As far as making a move and picking up somebody just for short term, I don’t think that’s in our plans. Because I think we have enough talent here where we don’t need to do that. But I’m sure Mike [Rizzo] is looking at everything. If anything becomes available that can help us, he’ll be on it.”
Johnson also acknowledged that if Detwiler suffers a setback or Haren regresses, the Nationals may have to act.
“I think the next couple weeks, more clarity will come in that picture,” Johnson said.