Nationals Notebook

Nationals Will Give Detwiler a Shot in Struggling Rotation

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 18, 2009

Take a long look at the Washington Nationals' pitching rotation, and the uncertainties form a gnarly pile-up. The team doesn't know how much time injured left-hander Scott Olsen will miss. It doesn't know if today's starter (Ross Detwiler) will stick around long enough to be Saturday's starter. And it doesn't know if Thursday's starter, the struggling Daniel Cabrera, is pitching himself out of the rotation or back toward adequacy.

For the moment, then, the Nationals are taking only the short view, confronting each uncertainty as it comes along.

Detwiler, 23, will be promoted from Class AA Harrisburg before today's game. Though he could stick in the big leagues for a while -- especially if Olsen misses several weeks with shoulder tendinitis -- he is being guaranteed only one start. Cabrera, too, will start again, despite placing, on average, more than two runners on base per inning this year. His velocity on Saturday night occasionally touched 96 mph, an improvement some in the organization are interpreting as a basic sign of hope.

Either way, though, Washington's rotation remains a puzzle. Cabrera and Olsen, the two veterans acquired this offseason to anchor the No. 2 and No. 3 rotation spots, have combined for a 6.61 ERA. The Nationals are 1-14 when they pitch.

Now, there is a chance a young rotation gets younger. Only Olsen's injury has opened the door for Detwiler (0-3, 2.96 at AA), of course, but the right performance will help him stick around.

"Let's face it," Manager Manny Acta said, "if the kid goes out and gives eight shutout innings and allows only three hits, are we going to give him a ticket back knowing we need another pitcher?"

Said acting general manager Mike Rizzo: "We're going to take this start with Detwiler one start at a time. He's still in a developmental stage in his career, and we thought he was the best option for us on a short term as a fill-in for an injured player. But long-term we're still trying to figure out what our options are."

Dukes Suffers a Setback

Elijah Dukes injured his left hamstring on Friday. His comeback attempt yesterday lasted all of one inning. After doubling in the first and getting stranded on third base, Dukes exited with an aggravated injury and Willie Harris replaced him in center field. Dukes is again being listed as day-to-day.

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