By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 27, 2009 12:40 AM
BALTIMORE, June 26 -- Although there is no firm timetable for his return, Scott Olsen is likely to rejoin the starting rotation when the Washington Nationals travel to face the Florida Marlins for a three-game series early next week.
"It hasn't been finalized yet," Manager Manny Acta said before the Nationals' game against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday, "but that's the thought process now."
Olsen, who was acquired from the Marlins in a trade this offseason, has pitched three rehabilitation assignments with Class AAA Syracuse. He threw 12 2/3 innings for Syracuse, finishing with a 5.68 ERA. In his last start with the team, Olsen allowed two runs on six hits over eight innings.
Olsen (1-4) made eight starts with Washington and compiled a 7.24 ERA. He scuffled in each of his last three outings with the Nationals before joining the disabled list on May 18 with shoulder tendinitis
It has long been expected that Olsen would bump one of the young pitchers from the rotation upon his return. Acta offered no hints about the organization's thought process in deciding which starters would be sent down, saying, "The only factor is going to be what's best for the Washington Nationals, now and in the future."
But whoever gets sent down, Acta said, would need to continue to improve in areas the coaching staff has stressed. That means throwing first-pitch strikes and building confidence in secondary and tertiary pitches.
"You fall behind in the count here and throwing a fastball doesn't cut it," Acta said. "It doesn't matter how hard you throw; you have to locate it real good."
He added: "It's a difficult thing to do, but in order to be successful up here, they need to work on those type of things. And down there is where to do it, not here."Johnson Plays With Pain
Nick Johnson, who left Thursday night's game with a left shin contusion, was in the Nationals' starting line up at first base on Friday against the Orioles.
Boston pitcher John Smoltz drilled Johnson in the first inning. Johnson hobbled his way around the base paths and quickly developed a large lump. Johnson, who has had an injury-plagued career with the Nationals, exited after that inning. He iced his leg on Friday, but said it was still swollen.
"I've never seen anything like it," Johnson said of the swelling in his shin. "I had a pretty good-sized knot on there."