Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said yesterday that he is committed to using a four-man pitching rotation as long as the team remains in the hunt for the playoffs, though the plan wouldn't go into effect until late next week.
"I think it's the right thing to do for the ballclub," Robinson said. "The players involved, the pitchers that are involved, they agree. They're eager to do it."
In truth, the arrangement would be a three-man rotation, and the fourth day would likely be handled by a hodgepodge of relievers. Injuries to right-handers Tony Armas Jr. and Ryan Drese have left the Nationals strapped for starting pitchers, and it didn't get any better last night against the Florida Marlins, when Robinson pulled left-hander John Halama after just two-thirds of an inning.
The plan, if it's carried out, will center on John Patterson, Esteban Loaiza and Livan Hernandez, the only solid members of Washington's rotation. But it can't be started this week. Patterson pitches against the Marlins tonight, with Loaiza and Hernandez facing the Atlanta Braves tomorrow and Saturday, respectively. That leaves a slot open for Sunday's series finale against the Braves, which is followed by an off day on Monday. Because of the off day, those three could return on four days' rest Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in New York against the Mets, and then begin starting on three days' rest thereafter.
Hernandez was the most vocal in support of the plan.
"The point is, it's now or never," Hernandez said. "You try to make the playoffs."
He has a legendarily elastic arm, and Loaiza is 9-2 over the course of his career on less than four days' rest. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the most wins of any pitcher during Loaiza's 11-year major league career.
Patterson pitched on three days' rest his last start, when he beat the Phillies, but it followed a night when he threw just 22/3 innings against the Braves before leaving with stomach cramps.
"There's no more September," Hernandez said. "The only September is next year."
Guillen Set to Make Donations
Right fielder Jose Guillen said he is prepared to make donations to victims of Hurricane Katrina based on his performance for the rest of the season. He said he would give $1,000 for every home run he hits, $200 per RBI and his entire playoff share to evacuees.
"I see these people on TV, and there's bodies in the water, and these people have nothing left, and I want to help," he said. "We make a lot of money as athletes, and sometimes we don't give things back. We should help in a situation like this."
Guillen, who this season wrote a $10,000 check to benefit injured veterans of the war in Iraq at Walter Reed Army Hospital, said he would also like to host the evacuees staying at the nearby D.C. Armory for a lunch or dinner. . . .
Infielder Jamey Carroll was named the Nationals' recipient of the 2005 Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes community involvement.