The Washington Nationals’ nominal ace, John Lannan, will miss at least one start with soreness in his left forearm and elbow. Lannan first recognized the pain in his April 21 start against the Colorado Rockies, a game in which he threw 107 pitches and surrendered four runs on 11 hits in six innings of work. The opening day starter has struggled so far this season, going 1-2 with a 6.34 ERA in six starts. He is expected to return on May 13 at Coors Field against those same Rockies.
The question then becomes who replaces Lannan at least for the time being. Jason Marquis, who has not pitched since April 18 due to elbow soreness of his own, suggested that he would be ready to return to the team in time to make Lannan’s scheduled start. Unfortunately for him, both General Manager Mike Rizzo and Manager Jim Riggleman have disagreed, expressing extreme skepticism with regard to his health and preparedness. It seems far more likely that the team calls up a minor leaguer – likely J.D. Martin – than turning to either Marquis or a reliever (Miguel Batista) for a spot start.
The Nationals have been devastated by injuries to starting pitchers. Off of the 40-man roster, the team currently has Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, Chien-Ming Wang, Garrett Mock, and Jason Marquis on the disabled list. Stephen Strasburg should join the major league club in the next month or two; however, the Nationals need someone to start every fifth day for that time. With Luis Atilano having recently been called up, look for Martin to join the rotation and make a few starts as needed.
The interesting story to follow then becomes the makeup of the rotation later in the season and in the next few years. Assuming Craig Stammen, Livan Hernandez, Scott Olsen, and Atilano stay healthy, each has a golden opportunity to state their claim to remain a part of the Nationals’ rotation. The team appears to have a glut of starting pitchers – not a bad problem to have by any stretch of the imagination – which should lead to fierce competition. The Nationals effectively have 11 pitchers vying for five available spots in the rotation, not including potentially promising minor leaguers like Aaron Thompson, Daniel Rosenbaum, Jack McGeary, and Tom Milone, among others. It certainly seems as if a true battle will ensue for those coveted rotation positions, a situation that can only improve the team’s prospects going forward.