Peacock’s role gaining importance as free agent market dwindles

The Nationals were disappointed at not being able to land their offseason prized pitching free agent, Mark Buerhle. There has not been much positive movement on the possibility of the Nats inking veteran Roy Oswalt to round out a talented and young starting rotation.

So where does that leave pitchers like Ross Detwiler, Brad Peacock and Tom Milone? Do they have a better chance of making the roster? Without a solidified rotation, is the door then more wide open for them to make a huge impression in spring training and make the team?

It seems likely that is the case. The ideal situation would be to have a veteran presence, similar to Livan Hernandez, in the rotation to lead the pitchers. A mentor type, who has been through the wars of a long season, and played on teams that have had pennant race experience, would be the ideal situation.

But if that does not happen, then Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan would represent the core of starters for next season. But Strasburg will have an innings limit in place, similar to Zimmermann’s last season, and the Nationals will need at least six starting pitchers to cover the rotation once Strasburg reaches his maximum.

To that end, general manager Mike Rizzo made some interesting comments this week regarding Brad Peacock in a video question-and-answer session on the team’s Web site.

Rizzo said he felt Peacock could be the “next Jordan Zimmermann”-type pitcher because he has some of the best stuff in the Nationals’ system.

Peacock certainly appears to have the right stuff, going 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in three games (two starts) from Sept. 6 until the end of the season. He allowed a single run in 12 innings of work.

You can see where Rizzo is going. If Peacock could be added to Strasburg and Zimmermann, and they can demonstrate consistency for the season, then they have that 1990s Atlanta Braves-like core necessary that could ultimately be the backbone of their pitching staff for years to come.

Now, the question still is out there: Can the Nationals go on without the veteran mentor on the staff for 2012, the Buerhle’s or Oswalt’s of the world? Or is there a backup plan similar to Jason Marquis available? That move was made in the last week of December 2009, and was at least the outline of what the Nationals had hoped would solidify their staff for a couple of years.

Two years have passed and the Nationals are back in that same situation. But this time, they have a much better overall talent base in the starting rotation.

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