The Nationals are signaling with their latest moves that this is the year.
In the past, if a starter labored or went into a bad two- or three-start slump, the Nationals would stand pat, not able to make a significant change because they did not have the depth or alternative to solve the problem instantly.
But through the work of ownership, general manager Mike Rizzo and the coaching staff, the Nats have shown they will make a move.
Phenom Bryce Harper was called up earlier than most people thought he would be and he has shown everything and more in his first month in the majors.
Catcher Sandy Leon was promoted from Double-A Harrisburg when Wilson Ramos went down to injury and, although he got hurt as well, it demonstrated the Nationals reward quality play and young talent if they believe the kids can contribute now.
And now, with starter Ross Detwiler going through a rough patch, veteran Chien-Ming Wang worked his way back from a spring training hamstring injury to step back into the rotation.
Wang had 38 victories in 2006 and 2007, and was built to be a starter. Detwiler can be a starter, as well, but this move to the bullpen will help him fix what is going on in his approach without having to worry about trying to extend to five or six innings.
The move that most remember recently was Henry Rodriguez being pulled out of the closer role after struggling in the ninth inning. Last week, after Rodriguez could not put away the Reds and the Phillies, Johnson moved him out of the ninth-inning job and placed veterans Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett as dual closers. The duo has finished the last three Nationals wins.
Rodriguez would be much better in the seventh, where even if he did uncork an occasional wild pitch, it would not cost the Nationals the game. Pitching coach Steve McCatty can tell Rodriguez to envision the seventh inning as if it was the ninth frame and go after hitters in that fashion. That way, Rodriguez can build back up his confidence to the point where he could be a viable option to close. By that time, Brad Lidge could be back and he would continue to be an excellent mentor for Rodriguez.
Now, there are reports that left fielder Michael Morse will rehab at Single-A Potomac on Tuesday as he gets closer to returning to full health from his lat injury.
It is impressive the Nationals have been able to maintain first place with all the injuries and changes that have been made. It also represents a signal from Rizzo that they are not messing around this season in a quest for the pennant.
‘Wait till next year’ is now in Nats town.