It is just one game, but it did happen. Dan Haren got rocked and Zach Duke did not fare much better. Depth is critical for each major league team, especially pitching depth, if you expect to make a deep run into October.
Last season, the Nationals allowed double-digit runs only two times in their first 156 games. The 15 runs allowed Friday night at Great American Ballpark were the most given up by Washington in a shutout since 2000. The most runs the Nationals allowed in any one game all of last season was 12 on Sept. 28, in game No. 159.
The Reds smacked six homers; Haren allowed four of them and Duke one. Haren and Duke combined to surrender 15 hits, 12 runs and 11 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.
It is early. But if Haren continues to be hittable, what can the Nationals do?
Would newly re-signed veteran Chris Young be a long-term solution instead of a stopgap or extra starter? Is there another pitcher or two at Triple-A Syracuse who could be called upon if this gets out of hand?
Young was a huge get for general manager Mike Rizzo. The Nationals were fortunate that Young did not sign with another major league team last week as a free agent. Young’s acceptance of a minor league deal could pay bigger dividends than was originally anticipated.
Young is being stretched out in Florida as the Nationals get him up to speed for starts in Syracuse. He went 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts in spring with the Nats, holding opponents to a .193 batting average in 16 innings. His first start for the Chiefs will be heavily monitored if Haren struggles in his second start next week.
Also at Syracuse is right-hander Tanner Roark. The 6-foot-2, 220-lb., product from Illinois had a superb opening start for the Chiefs in a 11-0 win over Lehigh Valley on Friday night. Roark went six innings and allowed no runs, with just two walks and seven strikeouts.
Last season, Roark was 6-17 with a 4.39 ERA in 26 starts and has tossed 141 innings in two of the last three seasons between Double-A Harrisburg and Syracuse.
Also available are Ryan Perry, a converted reliever; Yunesky Maya, who has major league starting experience; and left-hander Danny Rosenbaum, who was in the Colorado Rockies’ spring camp as a Rule 5 pick.
Of course, this is jumping way ahead and maybe a little dramatic overreaction, but it will be interesting to monitor how Haren does these first few weeks and whether or not Rizzo would give a Syracuse pitcher or two a shot this season, perhaps sooner rather than later.