After previously toying with the idea of shuffling around the starting rotation with an upcoming day off before an important Atlanta Braves series this weekend, Nationals Manager Davey Johnson decided he likes the rotation just the way it is.
Johnson had considered taking advantage of Thursday’s scheduled day off to move starters around so that left-hander John Lannan could face the Atlanta Braves, a left-handed heavy lineup that is 26-29 against left-handers this season. But that would involve giving some pitchers extra days and shortening other’s rest. And lining up the Nationals three left-handed starters all in row would allow the Braves to get comfortable seeing one type of pitcher.
During pennant races, rotations are sometimes adjusted to take advantage of matchups. Johnson met with pitching coach Steve McCatty, as he has for the past few days to discuss the subject, and concluded he didn’t want to touch the rotation, opting to limit the interference with their schedules.
“I’ve been pretty consistent about not dropping anybody from the rotation, missing a turn. We’re going to continue that path,” Johnson said. “…I like the way our rotation sets up for this series and the next series and how it plays out. Depending on how things go, I wouldn’t consider bringing anybody back on three days’ rest or anything like that.”
Johnson has tweaked the rotation’s schedule only twice this season: after the all-star break, a normal practice, and in early August when he flipped Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann so that Zimmermann could get an extra day to rest a tight shoulder.
Even without adjusting the rotation, the Nationals will send two left-handers to the mound against the Braves: Detwiler and Gonzalez, with right-hander Edwin Jackson sandwiched in between.
As far as adjusting position players’ routines at this time of the season, Johnson said he doesn’t expect them to ask for any more days off. He scheduled a day off on Sunday for everyday stalwart Ryan Zimmerman. Ian Desmond asked for a day off on Sunday, too, after playing two straight extra-inning games and because he has been nursing a minor hamstring strain.
“I’ve got some guys that are just iron men out there,” Johnson said. “The middle of my diamond, the center fielder, the second baseman, the shortstop, they don’t want to come out. They fight me. They hate me when I take them out. I don’t think [Danny] Espinosa’s forgiven me for giving him a day off and I love that.”
So, barring any injuries or Johnson plays hitting matchups, don’t expect any days off or altering of the schedules of the Nationals regular players during this final stretch run.