Olsen Is Scratched From His Start

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 17, 2009

Scott Olsen is Washington's most experienced starter. And lately, the lefty has pitched to the standards the Nationals were expecting.

But yesterday, the team's expectations for Olsen -- and the plan for its rotation coming out of the all-star break -- hit a snag. After complaining of tightness in the left side of his back, Olsen was scratched from his next scheduled start, tonight's against the Cubs. As a result, Washington will start Craig Stammen. Jordan Zimmermann and Garrett Mock will follow in the final two games of the series.

As of now, the team has announced no plans about what comes next for Olsen, nor has it indicated the seriousness of the injury.

Olsen missed more than a month earlier this season with left shoulder tendinitis. Since coming off the disabled list on June 29, he has allowed nine earned runs in 21 2/3 innings (three starts), good for a 3.74 ERA and a 1-0 record.

Mock Starting Over

Six times now he's been up and down, swinging between the minors and the big leagues like a pendulum. Twice Mock joined the Nationals last year for spot starts, returning to Class AAA after both games. He became a reliever. He joined the big leagues again. This year he was up on April 20, pitched 13 games out of the bullpen, and was demoted on May 20.

Yesterday, Mock returned to the Nationals, and no longer did circumstances feel so undecided. Sure, he has no guarantee of a prolonged stint, but he'll be given every opportunity as a starter, beginning with Sunday's game against the Cubs.

Though Mock was drafted as a starter and ascended through the minors as a starter, he was converted last year to the bullpen at the behest of Randy St. Claire, the team's pitching coach at the time. Not everybody in the organization shared St. Claire's opinion.

"A lot of it had to do with Randy," acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. "Randy St. Claire liked him as a reliever. . . . But we always thought -- us in the front office -- thought his niche was as a starter."

Bard Is on the Mend

Catcher Josh Bard, fighting a lingering groin injury, had an MRI exam over the all-star break. The exam showed nothing serious, and Bard said the time off served him well. He will continue to play through his injury. "I think I'm over the hump on the good side of getting better," Bard said, "but it's still got a little ways to go."

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