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The shape of the Nationals' rotation

The Nationals want to have their rotation pinned down by the end of this week, and they already have a firm idea of how it will be configured. Manager Jim Riggleman added Garrett Mock to John Lannan and Jason Marquis as the group of pitchers assured spots.

That leaves two final places in the rotation and four pitchers -- Craig Stammen, J.D. Martin, Livan Hernandez and Scott Olsen -- will compete for them.

After Jason Marquis starts today, the Nationals will start a string of virtual auditions. Stammen will pitch today after Marquis, Olsen will start tomorrow and Hernandez will start Wednesday. Even though it's unclear when Martin will next pitch, those outings will help determine which two become part of the Nationals rotation to begin the season.

"I'm not pigeon-holing it any particular way," Riggleman said. "Just kind of watch them pitch and come to a conclusion that, 'You know what, this is our best way to go.' "

Early in the spring, Riggleman declared the Nationals would count on Olsen to be part of the rotation if healthy. While Olsen has experienced no setbacks, he has also yet to convince to the Nationals he can pitch at full strength. In his last start, which came on windy morning at the minor league complex, Olsen hit 86 miles per hour on his fastball.

"I think he's healthy," Riggleman said. "I don't think he's 100 percent healthy yet."

"The next couple will be important for just about everybody," pitching coach Steven McCatty said. "I'm not trying to put stress on anybody, but yeah, they're all important. There are some openings, and you got to be ready to go."

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 22, 2010; 10:05 AM ET
Categories:  Jim Riggleman , Pitching rotation  
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Next: Ross Detwiler is throwing, and the lineups are here

Comments

Marquis is clearly in need of a strong start today. It seems that he is a slow starter (so to speak), but I am beginning to get a bit worried, given his previous spring training starts.

Posted by: TimDz | March 22, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I hope it's Olsen and Stammen, but I have a feeling Livan will make the club. Stammen has options and Olsen may well get a conditioning stint.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 22, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

My guess is Hernandez and Martin. Olsen to DL or possibly cut. Stammen probably in AAA, with Walker and Batista in the last two bullpen spots.

Posted by: jcj5y | March 22, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I know I'm beating the horse after it expired here, but, Garrett Mock? Why?

He was horrible as a reliever last year and was still bad when they put him in the rotation (5.40 ERA, 1.7 WHIP, 9 homers allowed in 78 innings). He had a great August but was brutal the rest of the year. On top of that, when you watch him, he shows no real sign of having the confidence to do the job.

Why is he getting such a clear path to a spot in the rotation? It's probably a moot point because once Detwiler and (hopefully) Wang get healthy, they'll be in the rotation and obviously Strasburg's on the way soon. But I don't get it.

Posted by: baltova1 | March 22, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I agree with baltova1. I have more faith in any of the above than I do in Mock.

Posted by: Tom8 | March 22, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I have to agree that Olsen is in a really bad spot right now. He needs to push the radar gun past 88 (and well past the 86 of last game), or he is toast.

A good start for Marquis today would save me money on antacids.

The other two spots seem destined for Livo and either Stammen or Martin. However, don't discount Rizzo's ability to shock us. None of us saw Dukes's release when it came.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | March 22, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

First 4 starters last season; Lannan, Olsen, Cabrera, Martis.

This group is an upgrade over that. Of course, once we got to a 5th starter, it was JZim. But, you could look at Marquis as replacing Cabrera. Who doesn't like that?

The good news is Strasburg comes in June. If Wang comes back to 80% of his former self by All-Star break, then he's solid and our rotation is Lannan, Olsen, Marquis, Strasburg, Wang.

That would be a massive upgrade from opening day last year. Add Zimmermann to that next year and it's actually a good rotation.

There is hope but the lineup needs an upgrade - one way or the other.

Posted by: Avar | March 22, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

And don't forget Detwiler. I know we're not supposed to trust September numbers, but I was very encouraged by his last stint.

In May, we could see Wang and Detwiler making a case to be inserted into the rotation.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 22, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Avar, I have a lot less faith in Olsen than you do. As far as I'm concerned, he's done. If he can't hit 92+, then he won't be effective, and I'm betting he can't hit 92+.

Same with Wang. Maybe he comes back OK. But at this point, there's no reason to think it is better than 50 / 50.

I have more faith in Detwiler returning healthy, since his surgery was not on his arm, but a healthy Detwiler does not do all that much for us.

The odds of us having a good rotation in June / July is no better / no worse than us having a lousy rotation in June / July.

We could easily be:
Lannan
Marquis
Mock
Livo
Strasburg

And keep in mind, Strasburg has a limit of roughly 160 innings.


Posted by: Sunderland | March 22, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Right now Olsen is throwing slower than Martin. Martin is used to it and it sounds like Livan is helping him improve his repertoire of pitches.

If Marquis has another bad outing my guess is Stammen, Martin, Battista and Hernandez may make the team.

Posted by: periculum | March 22, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

In June and July?

Strasburg, Lannan, Detwiler (he had damned well better!), Thompson, Mock (if he doesn't implode again), Stammen/Martin.

Nota bene: there are THREE younger than 30 left handed starters in this rotation. There are three younger than 30 right handed starters in this rotation. Have to figure that's where the Nats are headed.

Posted by: periculum | March 22, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

They really don't need Wang, Olsen, and have to guess Chico ends up as a reliever at this point.

JZimm? He's the unknown. If he comes back close to the original JZimm then they may be loaded to bear. Could be they draft a pitcher as well.

Posted by: periculum | March 22, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Dont trust Olsen to get his velocity back. If he isn't hitting at least 90 he is worthless, even then i dont trust him to stay healthy. Im wondering if he still smokes like 2 packs a day?.
The opening day rotation is going to look bad there is no denying that. But with some luck May and June could usher a mostly new rotation. Add Detwiler, Wang, and Stras to Lannan and Marquis. That would be a pretty nice rotation. Though there are still a lot of questions, esp with wang. This all would have been a lot simpler had JZimm not gone down, really hope he can come back.

Posted by: Stu27 | March 22, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Mock??????, my lord the king of inconsistency! Here is the scenario and we have seen this play out time and time again. This guy throws 5 innings, always behind in the count, gets burned on to many waist-high FB pitches and on most days leaves the game for a PH with the Nats trailing by 3, 4 or 5. Does Rigglemen have some type of man-love for this kid? I like JD Martin and Craig Stammen but then again I'm just a fan!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 22, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm guessing that Mock is in there because the Nats are showcasing him to the rest of the league. If he pitches decently through May, then he's included in a trade once they bring up (one of or all of) Strasburg/Wang/Detwiler . If he stinks it up during the first two months, then he's either sent down or DFA'd. Either way, I just don't see Mock sticking on the 25-man all season long.

Posted by: erocks33 | March 22, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Why are the Nats even considering bringing Livan Hernandez north? We know what he can do - pitch batting practice to the opposition.

I don't understand why J.D. Martin hasn't pitched since March 10. He should automatically be a part of this rotation. After a shaky start in his first three MLB games last summer, Martin settled into a nice pattern. If you look at his record starting in August, he was 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA. Over a full season, that would factor out to a nice 15-game winner.

Although Martin has had a fine minor league career, he's never generated much respect because he lacks flash. The Nats don't need "flash"; they need a solid performance. Look at his career totals in the minors: 61-31, 3.40 ERA, and a 1.167 WHIP. Before being called up last year, his stats at Syracuse were: 8-3, 2.66 ERA, and a 0.966 WHIP. Give this guy a spot in the rotation.

Posted by: gibson0 | March 22, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm with gibson0. Assuming Martin is healthy, he should get the nod. DL Olsen until he shows he can pitch 90-92 mph. Don't waste time with Livo. But I disagree with the naysayers above. I'd like to see Mock get a month or two of starts before our walking wounded return.

Posted by: LandoverHillsBoysClub | March 22, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Geez, Wendelstedt, again?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 22, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Update from the game (nats website);
Marquis 2.0 innings pitched
1 hit, o runs
no ground outs...4 fly outs (not diggin that stat...)

Posted by: TimDz | March 22, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

On the Nats side, dingers for RZ and JW (yeah, it's a little windy, too ;-)).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 22, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

The Nats have always held onto injured pitchers too long. See John Patterson and Shawn Hill here.

The team resigns Olsen despite a long rehab from surgery, ditto for Wang.

And so neither of these players may be 100% until NEXT year.

The Nationals have certainly had enough 'next years' in a row for the fans here.

Building a team is one thing.

But where are the emerging players?

Zimmerman has been here since 2005.

Strasburg and Storen were drafted in 2009 and are major league rookies.

Where is Marrero? Where is Smoker? Where is McGeary? Where is Burgess? Where is Hood? Where is Balester? Where is Detwiler?

Few top prospects have emerged and THAT as much as the Lerner's frugal ways is the reason for the team losing 100 games a year.

After all these years of drafting high and trading for prospects, the Nationals should have the makings of a strong, though young, pitching staff.

Instead they have a 31 year old junk baller in Marquis at the head of the line with another offspeed guru in Lannan as the #2.

Mock has never been consistent enough to stay in the majors in 4 years of trying. Now at 28 he's going to be the answer?

Stammen and Martin are minor leaguers. If either of these guys wins 10 games in the majors in a season I will be very pleasantly surprised.

I know this state of affairs is largely Bowden's making with collusion from the Lerners in going 'cheap and available' on player development.

Rizzo deserves 3 years IMO to show what he can do.

But for those of us that have been watching this team since 2005, this has been a gut-wrenching process with few bright spots.

The 1962 Mets set the modern record for futility but were in the World Series in 1969.

The Tigers lost 119 games this past decade but were also in a World Series a couple of years later.

For what has happened here, that is really the only payoff that has meaning.

Going .500 at this point doesn't mean squat to me, except as 'mile marker' on the road to the finish of the marathon.

Posted by: leopard09 | March 22, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm happy for the team to let the next few weeks to play out before setting the rotation. That's what ST is for, and let's face it, the problem with our young starters last year (including Mock, by the way) was the second and third time through the batting order. A good first three innings doesn't mean much if you blow up in the fourth orfifth. So let's see how Martin and Stammen do as they get stretched out, and whether Olson's velocity improves. We know what we're getting with Livo (quality starts for two games, and batting practice for the third). I'm fine with him starting the year in the rotation, with the hope that Wang, Chico, or Detweiler is ready to come up in May, and then Strasburg in June.

Posted by: Section222 | March 22, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I am happy for Garrett, he is a great guy with good stuff, he has lacked confidence in the past and Pudge is helping him....exactly what he was signed to do. There will lots of hard decisions come June and July for the starting rotation. I think a trade or two is in order if everyone in DC and Syracuse are healthy.

Posted by: markfd | March 22, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I actually find this encouraging. The Nats will start the year with five fairly decent starters, then Wang, Detwiler, Strasburg, and Olson coming in behind that - so basically they can juggle eight or nine starters throughout the year.

Posted by: AsstGM | March 22, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Attention D.C. basball nation! This franchise is still rebuilding from years of ridiculous and downright awful Expos mismanagement. Mister Loria, Mister Brochu, and Mister Bronfman for example. The team is just not capable of competing for the pennant yet. Super rook Mister Strasburg is still a project. Please be realistic and don't jump to conclusions

Posted by: godfreycatblue | March 22, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

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