Nationals Notebook

Nationals Eager for Olsen's Return to Rotation

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 8, 2009

Nobody in the Washington Nationals' current starting rotation has a higher ERA than Scott Olsen's (7.24). But that doesn't mean the Nationals won't relish the left-hander's return from the disabled list.

Right now, the Nationals are employing a pitching rotation with one second-year player, four rookies and minuscule experience. The youth-heavy formula, no matter how well it showcases the franchise's growth potential, isn't yet the best formula to aid the winning percentage.

On Tuesday, Olsen will begin a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac. He'll be limited to three innings and 50 pitches.

After one or two additional starts, Olsen -- who has more career appearances than the rest of Washington's starting staff combined -- will be ready to return to the big leagues. And at that time, the Nationals will face a decision. They must return one of their rookies, likely Craig Stammen or Ross Detwiler, to the minors.

Both pitchers have shown flashes of potential. Both, however, only made it to the big leagues in the first place because the team, needing to replace the injured Olsen and the ineffective Daniel Cabrera, had few other options.

Asked about the upcoming decision to demote one of his rookies, Manager Manny Acta said, "It's probably not that tough. Because some of these guys, they were in that situation because of Olsen getting hurt and the Cabrera situation. So it's not going to be such a bad decision to get one of these guys to go down there [to the minors] and get some experience."

Willingham Close

Josh Willingham, still battling the last symptoms of a viral infection, missed his sixth consecutive game yesterday. But he did take batting practice, and the Nationals believe their outfielder will be ready to return to their lineup on Tuesday.

"Day by day he's getting better, he's getting stronger," Acta said. "We're hoping that having the day off tomorrow he can be as close as possible to full strength on Tuesday."

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