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Washington Nationals look for depth in pitching rotation

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 24, 2010; D02

VIERA, FLA. -- The Washington Nationals, at first glance, are already overloaded with pitchers. They have 35 in camp, 32 of whom are healthy. Nineteen of those healthy pitchers have started major league baseball games. Four of them -- Scott Olsen, Jason Marquis, Shawn Estes and Miguel Batista -- have started more than 100 games.

But as the Nationals begin the process of finding their five-man rotation, General Manager Mike Rizzo is still open to the idea of adding arms, not eliminating them.

According to a source, Washington is monitoring several remaining veteran free agents, including Liván Hernández and Braden Looper.

The Nationals have reason to want such security, especially given the hip injury earlier this week to Ross Detwiler, a 23-year-old with the inside track for the No. 5 rotation spot. Right now, two spots on the staff are open, and that could become three spots if Olsen doesn't appear fully recovered from shoulder surgery.

"I think at this point if that happens we'll welcome that addition," Manager Jim Riggleman said, "but if it doesn't I'm comfortable with the guys we have right here."

Playing for Nats a prank?

Eddie Guardado has been around for 17 big league seasons, experience that grants him a certain license to say whatever comes to mind. As such, even with spring training just days old, those in the Nationals clubhouse have already identified Guardado as a geyser of wisdom and one-liners.

Guardado, 39, is a non-roster invitee. But because of what he knows, and because of what he's seen, the lefty has a strong chance to crack the Nationals' bullpen. Guardado likes the talent of his young teammates, but doesn't get carried away with hype: "Great arms. Can they throw strikes?" He jokes that his oldest son, a 13-year-old, can beat up Stephen Strasburg, and though he wishes spring training weren't so long, he also says: "I've got no complaints man; none at all. Still got a big league uniform on."

Guardado's offseason decision to sign with the Nationals caught some by surprise, if only because of his previous aversion to Washington -- which became well-known after a July 2008 prank. Hours before the trading deadline that year, Guardado, then with the Rangers, was told he'd been traded to Washington.

Recalled Guardado: "Skip pulls me out of the steam room like, 'Come here.' I'm soaking wet and [the manager] is like, 'They want you upstairs.' I'm like, 'Where am I going!?' And he goes, 'Ahh, you gotta go talk to the general manager.' I go, 'Skip, I at least deserve to know where I'm going.' He says, 'I think it's the Washington Nationals.' I'm like, 'The [expletive] Nationals!? What the [expletive] am I gonna do there!?' I don't know. So I'm soaking. They take me upstairs. I'm in my shorts, go up to see [General Manager Jon Daniels] and all the brass is in there. And I'm like, 'What the [expletive] is going on?' I was hot. And he looked at me like: 'Come here man. We're just playing with you.' I said, 'You're about to go out that window.' "

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