Ross Ohlendorf to start Sunday

August 30, 2013

Ross Ohlendorf. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Despite Manager Davey Johnson’s concerns about his stamina, Ross Ohlendorf will start Sunday night for the Nationals against the Mets. Johnson had been deciding between Tanner Roark and Ohlendorf, and he essentially made the call last night when he sent Roark in to pitch the final two innings of the Nationals’ 9-0 victory over the Marlins.

After Ohlendorf earned the win Tuesday night, Johnson leaned toward replacing him in the rotation with Roark, who has been dominant out of the bullpen. The Nationals are 4-0 in Ohlendorf’s starts, but Tuesday he tired abruptly. After five scoreless innings, Ohlendorf allowed a homer to the first batter he faced in the sixth, failing to throw his fastball harder than 85 mph.

Johnson said he will still try to insert Roark into the rotation at some point in the final month. Roark has a 0.93 ERA in his first eight appearances, and he made 11 starts this year for Class AAA Syracuse. His fastball has hit the mid-90s consistently, and he mixes in a slider and a change-up. Johnson wants to determine if Roark, a 26-year-old the Nationals acquired from the Rangers for Cristian Guzman in 2010, could become a candidate for next year’s rotation.

“I’d still like to give him a shot at starting,” Johnson said. “I like the way he goes about his business. One of the reasons that I felt that he needs to get the opportunity is because, you want to give him the opportunity to see how that plays forward going into next year. Would he be a candidate to start? You need to have a read on as many good pitchers as you can going forward.”

The Nationals’ pitching staff may receive a boost in September from the return of Ross Detwiler, who has been on the 60-day disabled list since July 4 with a bulging disk in his back. Detwiler, Johnson said, is “real close” to throwing off a mound. In the early afternoon Friday, Detwiler played catch in the outfield.

Johnson does not think Detwiler will build enough arm strength for him to earn a regular spot in the rotation, but he wants Detwiler to pitch enough to determine whether or not he will require surgery on his back in the offseason. Johnson envisioned a role for Detwiler that would have him pitching one-inning relief stints every five days. Johnson said Detwiler would likely head to the instructional league after the season.

Adam Kilgore covers national sports for the Washington Post. Previously he served as the Post's Washington Nationals beat writer from 2010 to 2014.
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