With Jordan Zimmermann finished for the season after reaching his 160-inning limit, the Nationals will turn to their farm system and call up Tom Milone, a left-hander who has struck out 155 and walked 16 in 148 1/3 innings at Class AAA Syracuse this season.
The Nationals drafted Milone, 24, in the 10th round in 2008 out of the University of Southern California. The Nationals named their minor league pitcher of the year last season, when he went 12-5 with a 2.85 ERA for Class AA Harrisburg.
Milone does not possess an overpowering arsenal of pitches, but Nationals officials and former teammates rave about his control, command, athleticism and intelligence on the mound. With a fastball in the high-80s, at best, Milone has compiled a 3.05 ERA while striking out 8.1 batters per nine innings in his four-year minor league career.
“He’s a pitcher,” said Nationals bench coach Pat Corrales, who spent most of this season evaluating the Nationals’ minor league system. “He’s very mature. Every level he’s ever gone to, he’s never been overwhelmed by being there.”
Corrales also said Milone, 6-foot-1, 2-5 pounds, is an excellent athlete. He’s regarded as a standout fielder for a pitcher, equipped with a deadly pickoff move. He can hit, too – in 33 plate appearances this season, Milone is hitting .346/.370/.385.
In 2009, Nationals closer Drew Storen played briefly with Milone at Class A Potomac. Watching Milone pitch, he thought Milone, at 22, could pitch in the majors then.
“He’s not going to be a guy that blows you away with his stuff,” Storen said. “He’s a guy that just goes in there, he cuts it, he sinks it. I was beyond impressed with his ability to pitch. He doesn’t get the attention. He’s gotten more attention this year – he’s having such a remarkable year. I’m really excited to see him pitch at this level, his ability to set guys up. He just doesn’t try to do too much. That’s the toughest thing to do as a pitcher. I’m really excited to see him throw.”