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Long-Term Development vs. Short-Term Need

The Nationals think highly of Shairon Martis. For the moment, they just aren't quite sure what to do with him. Martis, who doesn't turn 22 until later this month, projects as a future starter. With Shawn Hill's health in doubt, Martis also has a marginal chance to crack the big league rotation, where he made four starts in September 2008.

But more likely, Washington must determine whether to use Martis in the big-league bullpen, or as a starter in Class AAA Syracuse.

"He's competing here for one of those starting spots, and if not, at the end of camp we're going to do what is best for us," Manager Manny Acta said. "Are going to be better off with him pitching out of the pen, or are we gonna be better off with him continuing to develop as a starter in Class AAA? At the end of camp, we'll have the answer, not only because of him, but also whether a few more guys step up in that bullpen."

So far this spring, few of the team's bullpen candidates have pitched well, so Martis is worth a look. He's pitched two innings this spring, allowing no runs, and is slated to follow John Lannan today.

By Chico Harlan  |  March 8, 2009; 10:39 AM ET
 
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Comments

When you've got no choices, you've got no choices.

Washington's pitchers are all AAA or below.

Posted by: JohnRDC | March 8, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

We enjoyed watching Martis at Potomac during his time there. BTW, how excited is he about the Netherlands upset of the Dominican team? (Sorry, Manny.)

Speaking of the WBC, Boz has a Dunn-related post on the Baseball Insider.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 8, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

If Nick Johnson remains healthy, the Nationals might be forced to trade him for relief pitching regardless if they want to or not.

Posted by: rushfari | March 8, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Washington's pitchers are all AAA or below.

Posted by: JohnRDC | March 8, 2009 10:43
---------------------------------------

Well now I know you're ignorable.

Lannan & Olson are solid ML pitchers. Not a whole rotation yet, but its a start. Too many negative posters on here - why not actually try to enjoy the baseball?

Posted by: Bazz | March 8, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

JohnRDC-

That was a bit of an exaggerated low blow. All observers consider Lannan and Olsen to be major-league pitchers, and Cabrera is as well, although he is frustrating. The coming year will determine if some of the youngsters belong in the bigs, but that's how every team determines the real value of their prospects.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | March 8, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I have to believe that if Martis doesn't make the starting rotation, he'll get assigned to SYR. It wouldn't be a good move in his development to put him in the bullpen.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm inclined to agree with BinM. I don't see Cabrera solving his issues here or the Nationals wasting roster space on him if there are guys in the minors ready to step up to take his spot. Slotting Martis in the bullpen when he has a legitimate shot at being a starter next season, if not this one, is only going to do the club more harm than good in the long run. The bullpen may look awful so far this spring, but it is early and it isn't anything to jump the shark over

Posted by: vash462 | March 8, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

BinM and vash462 -- what about Earl Weaver's notion (I know, that's 40 years ago, but still) that you should start a rookie out in the bullpen? Martis has been pitching professionally for about 4 years now, so unless he really needs to get more miles on him, a year in the bigs pitching 100 innings might be as good or better for his development than 200 innings in AAA.

Just a thought.

Posted by: Section406 | March 8, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the current state of the bullpen, I think the team has some pieces, Manny & St.Claire just need to decide how to best deploy them.
Hanrahan, Rivera, Bergmann & T. Young have all been steady so far; Hinckley has bounced back from a horrible 1st outing, so he should still be in the mix. Shell, Mock & Estrada all need to show better than they have so far in order to make the final 25, imo.
Colome seems to be making the best case for a roster spot from the STI group, but J. Jones, Brownlie & Glover all deserve further looks as well. It's not out of the realm of possibility to think that a pitcher like Towers or Chacin would be asked to handle the LR role until Matt Chico comes back from the injured list.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

@406:
An interesting notion, but I think Weaver also considered his bullpen to be disposable parts; Use them up, throw them away & get new ones. He was also blessed with some great starting pitchers (Palmer, Cuellar, McNally, Dobson, Flanagan, etc.) over the years.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

> Slotting Martis in the bullpen when he has a legitimate shot at being a starter next season, if not this one, is only going to do the club more harm than good in the long run.

This is the best move. If he goes back to AAA, he gets to work on all of his pitches, and stretch his arm out. He'd probably only use two pitches out of the bullpen. Like you say, if he's going to be a starter anyway, might as well let him develop in that direction.

Posted by: Brue | March 8, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

@Brue:
Well said - You & I can agree on a few things.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Woo-Hoo - Audio feed available for today's game (via WFAN-Mets' feed). Not Charlie & Dave, but better than nothing.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

BinM, I totally agree with your bullpen assessment. This is not the disaster area everyone is predicting it to be:

Hanrahan, Closer, solid
Rivera, 8th setup, solid
Colome, 7th setup, OK or
Shell, 7th setup, OK
Bergmann, long, OK
T. Young, long, promising
Hinckley, LOOGY, OK
A kid or late ST acquisition.

That's an 8-man pen, to go with:
Lannan
Olsen
Cabrera
J. Zimm
Martis or Balester

If Hill can comb his hair after any workout, that's just a plus.

Honestly, I don't think that's a bad 5-8 split with 12 position players.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | March 8, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

More likely 12 pitchers, perhaps 11 in April before a 5th starter is needed. Colome pitching himself into consideration is a pleasant surprise. Building backwards, I'd figure Young and Bergmann, maybe Hinckley as a lefty specialist, Colome perhaps, ? of the Mysterions (please, Ohmann or perhaps an As reliever), Rivera, and Hanrahan. Colome is essentially squeezing Shell out.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 8, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

@jd50:
Shell is still a ? for 2009 in my mind, but you've captured the jist of it. I would personally go with 13 players & 12 pitchers (5 starters / 7 relievers) to start the season.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Milledge w 1-out triple, bottom 1. Scoots home on Zim's sac fly.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 8, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

@jca:
More likely the combination of T. Young / Bergmann / Colome will squeeze out Mock & Estrada - Shell is still in the mix, along with some others, but someone needs to claim the final slot.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Nationals 1, Mets 0; End of 1.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

>@Brue:
Well said - You & I can agree on a few things.

Thank you. My delivery may be abhorrent from time to time, but usually when I stick to baseball things seem to work out. Spring Training is the best time for conversation, though. There's always a few surprises.

Posted by: Brue | March 8, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Kearns is playing and just got a hit. Also made a nice catch at the knees in RF.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 8, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

C. Guzman flies out to shallow LF with men on 2nd & 3rd to end the inning - Mets 0, Nationals 1 - end of 2.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Live box (I had to go to the Mets site to find it - ack...ptooie!):

http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/news/boxscore.jsp?gid=2009_03_08_nynmlb_wasmlb_1

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 8, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Mets score two unearned runs in the top of the third, on two hits & a RZimm throwing error - Mets 2, Nationals 1; end of 3.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

How are you picking up WFAN - MLB audio?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 8, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

What the ...? Is Hunter Wendelstedt the official HP ump of John Lannan now?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 8, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

@1a1:
The same "live box" feed is available via mlb.com.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, BinM. It wasn't working via the Nats site. Maybe Mets radio is bad mojo. If so, you have more penance to do...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 8, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

@1a1:
re: Audio feed - I subscribed to mlb.com's feed. Given the sorry radio range for the Nationals (WFED), I figured it was the only way to hear games this year.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, BinM. The radio range *is* awful. If my (desktop) computer and (basement) tv were configured differently, I'd consider purchasing the mlb.com feed as well.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 8, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Jinx-free live box:

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/boxscore.jsp?gid=2009_03_08_nynmlb_wasmlb_1

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 8, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I will say this - the WFAN announcers are both competent, aren't homers at all, and have been complementary to the National players.

mid-post update - Valentin homers to RF, with Kearns on board - now 3-2 Nationals, bottom of the 4th.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

@1a1:
Take the computer audio feed option - It's only $14.95 for the season & gives you full coverage for the season.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

hmmm...I'll take a look at that option. Thanks, BinM (for the update as well).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 8, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Milledge & RZimm get aboard & score on a SF by Dukes & an error by the NYM. Now Mets 2, Nationals 5 - end of 5.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

A couple of ex-Nats who are now on the Mets are playing in the other Mets game today vs. Michigan: Tim Redding gave up 5 runs in one-third of an inning and Rob Macowiak has six RBIs.

Posted by: BGinVA | March 8, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

No change - Mets 2, Nationals 5, end of 6.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

>Tim Redding gave up 5 runs in one-third of an inning and Rob Macowiak has six RBIs.

lol

Posted by: Brue | March 8, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

@BG:
Great - Mackowiak can still hit college pitching, and Redding's non-tender looks like a good decision.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Mackowiak really wasn't supposed to stink. I wonder what happened to him last year?

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | March 8, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

@Positively Half St.:
re RobMac: I dunno - Gave up PED's, got older, flipped leagues; pick a couple, pick 'em all. Just glad the Nats areen't counting on him this year.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

The Nats scratch out three more runs, and make a bunch of lineup moves - Now Mets 2, Nationals 8, end of 7.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

From Bill Madden's Sunday NY Daily News column today...

In delivering his resignation as Nationals GM last week, Jim Bowden chose to shoot the messenger and blame the media for his demise. But it wasn't the media that paid that $1.4 million bonus for the Dominican Republic shortstop prospect who lied about his age and name. And it wasn't the media that put together the team that had the worst record in baseball last year. The fact is, Bowden, who is still under investigation by federal authorities and MLB in connection with the bonus-skimming scandal in the Dominican, has always treaded a fine line between responsible and unscrupulous behavior. That goes all the way back to 1989 when, as a front-office assistant with the Yankees, he was fired and escorted out of Yankee Stadium amid allegations he was stealing other teams' scouting reports via a computer.

Posted by: leetee1955 | March 8, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

@leetee:
Thanks for the post, but that's just a re-hash of last weeks' news. Nice to know that a NY paper would voice an opinion on the 'lowly' Nationals, non-the-less.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Again, no change - Mets 2, Nationals 8, through eight innings.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

>he was fired and escorted out of Yankee Stadium amid allegations he was stealing other teams' scouting reports via a computer.

It's funny how they didn't mention that the other GMs couldn't stand him.

Posted by: Brue | March 8, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

And Glover coaxes three ground-ball outs to finish the game - Mets 2, Nationals 8 = final.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

oops: Mets 3, Nationals 8 = final.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Hinckley, LOOGY, OK...

I know it has been said before, but what does LOOGY stand for?

I know it has something to do with a left handed reliever that faces one left handed batter...but I want to know what the acronym actually stands for...

Thanks

Posted by: TimDz | March 8, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Left handed One Out guY

Posted by: NatsNut | March 8, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Oops. I mean Left handed One Out GuY

Posted by: NatsNut | March 8, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Lucky Old Older Guy Y do you ask?

Posted by: Brue | March 8, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Natsnut...

Posted by: TimDz | March 8, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Forgive me for not knowing this; I'm Danish. If the Nats start the season with a 5-man rotation of Lannan, Olsen, Cabrera, Zimmermann, and Martis/Balester, do the latter three work full major league seasons (assuming they stay healthy, always a big if with our guys). Or do they get shut down after 160 or so innings and we use others to make up those starts?

Posted by: SorenKierkegaard | March 8, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

seems like most the time 4th and 5th starters are happy to last 5 innings if they can start 30 times a year. we wouldn't push them 7 innings or more very often. mostly we'd just want our #1 and #2 starters to give the bullpen a break for helping along the rest of the staff. that's a big reason we need long relievers in the bullpen like bergmann.

Posted by: longterm | March 8, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

@SorenK:
The starting rotation would be a configuration of Lannan, Olsen, Cabrera, J.Zimmermann and either Martis or Balester, with the either/or loser being assigned to SYR. There is a 25-man roster limit for the Major-League squad once the season begins.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

@longterm:

Every starting pitcher (#1-5) will have bad days, or be a late scratch from the lineup at some point; That's where the LR's become important. If one or two of the "in-camp" pitchers (Atilano, Bergmann, Estrada, Mock) or an STI (J. Jones, Towers, or Brownlie) can step into that role through July, that's one less worry.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

SorenK, to answer your specific question, the answer is "likely yes." Teams don't want to increase a young pitcher's workload too dramatically from one year to the next, as there is a theory that this leads to injury at some point down the road.

So, assuming that either or both Zimmermann and/or Balester make the rotation and are consistent enough to rack up around 150-160 innings with some starts still ahead of them, the team would probably shut them down at that point--barring an unthinkable pennant race, which for some teams in the past has created a dilemma about how far to push their young pitchers.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | March 8, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Chico has TWO new posts up, gyus.

Posted by: leetee1955 | March 8, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

BinM - in my mind, I have Mock as the closer in Syracuse and Estrada back there already. Of course, most have Mock in the majors, so I may be nuts. It does seem Shell and Colome may be an either / or, unless there is no mystery pitcher coming into camp. I think both Young and Bergmann make the team due to Rule 5 status and Bergmann's lack of options. Bergmann is the spot starter.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 8, 2009 6:51 PM | Report abuse

In this absurd, meaningless world of baseball, Soren K, what does it matter who is shut down when? ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 8, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

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