Moves leave ro­ta­tion un­clear

In­jured starters bought time to heal

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

The Washington Na­tion­als’ trans­ac­tions were straight lines: start­ing pitcher A.J. Cole was called up from Triple-A Syra­cuse. Re­liever Brandon Kint­zler was ac­ti­vated. Start­ing pitcher Erick Fedde and re­liever Sammy So­lis were sent to Syra­cuse.

That’s just the be­gin­ning with these moves.

Cole was on the ros­ter to start Wed­nes­day night in Mi­ami. The Na­tion­als are play­ing their sixth game in five days -- a re­sult of Sun­day’s dou­ble­header -- and needed a spot start. Cole is part of what has been a woe­ful ro­ta­tion this sea­son at Syra­cuse. But, some­one out of the reg­u­lar ro­ta­tion had to pitch Wed­nes­day. He’s it.

What’s next is in ques­tion. Send­ing Fedde back to the mi­nor leagues could have in­di­cated that the Na­tion­als think Stephen Stras­burg (nerve im­pinge­ment, right arm) could make his next start af­ter be­ing placed on the 10-day dis­abled list, retroac­tive to July 24. Fedde took Stras­burg’s spot July 30. Stras­burg’s next start­ing slot could come this week­end. Tan­ner Roark is sched­uled to pitch Fri­day. The Na­tion­als have the next two starters listed as TBD.

But, Na­tion­als man­ager Dusty Baker told re­porters Wed­nes­day in Mi­ami that Stras­burg “prob­a­bly” will not pitch this week­end.

It’s not just Stras­burg the team is watch­ing. Ace Max Scherzer left Tues­day’s game af­ter throw­ing one warmup pitch in the bot­tom of the sec­ond in­ning. He had a neck spasm. Scherzer said he has dealt with the same prob­lem prior.

Wed­nes­day, he joked with re­porters in Mi­ami that he went to a box store and bought a new pil­low. He ex­pects a visit to a chiropractor to fix the prob­lem.

There is a third piece of in­for­ma­tion the Na­tion­als are un­sure of. Gio Gon­za­lez’s wife, Berenice, is due any day with their sec­ond child. Should Gon­za­lez be placed on the pa­ter­nity leave list within 10 days of Fedde’s de­mo­tion, that would al­low Washington to re­call Fedde and Gon­za­lez to wel­come a sib­ling to Enzo, who was born in March of last year.

Be­fore Washington’s week­end jug­gle of its ro­ta­tion, it will have a chance to put Kint­zler into ac­tion. The for­mer Min­nesota Twins closer was ac­quired just min­utes be­fore the July 31 non-waiver trade dead­line to pro­vide fur­ther help to the Na­tion­als’ be­lea­guered bullpen. Kint­zler will join Ryan Mad­son and Sean Doolit­tle at the back of the bullpen. Though right-handed, Kint­zler has re­verse splits this sea­son, which will al­low Baker to pitch Kint­zler against left­handed hit­ters. Doolit­tle has been used as the team’s closer since ar­riv­ing July 16. Mad­son has worked as the setup man.

Washington en­tered play Wed­nes­day with the worst bullpen ERA (5.14) in the Na­tional League. That is more than two runs worse than league­lead­ing Los An­ge­les (2.87). No team has used its bullpen less than the Na­tion­als. At 301 in­nings pitched, the Na­tion­als bullpen trails 29th-place Ari­zona by 17 2/3 in­nings, which puts Baker in a tough place. How much does he use his new trio of re­liev­ers to help back down the work­load on his starters be­fore the play­offs? And, should he up the re­liev­ers’ us­age, how much is he tak­ing out of them be­fore Oc­to­ber ar­rives? Doolit­tle (30) has a his­tory of arm prob­lems. Kint­zler turned 33 years old Aug. 1. Mad­son is 36. These will be prime is­sues un­til the end of the sea­son.

This week­end, Washington just hopes to have its lead­ing arms back on top of the ro­ta­tion.

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