The Washington Nationals optioned starting pitcher Yunesky Maya to Triple-A Syracuse yesterday in order to add another bullpen option for Jim Riggleman until Tom Gorzelanny makes his next expected start Sunday. While the demotion was expected, Maya didn't exactly do much to inspire the Nationals to make room on the roster to keep the 29-year-old Cuban.
In four starts, Maya went 0-1 and posted a 6.88 ERA and a .325 batting average against. While some viewed his call-up as a chance for him to tune his skills at the major league level, others viewed it as the former prospect's final chance to prove he was a valuable investment, and can, in fact, be a major league starter.
The club made the investment in Maya when they signed the Cuban defector to a four-year, $8 million contract last summer, but after a brief stint in the minors, and now nine total starts in the majors, he has failed to impress. The Nationals were quick to blame Maya's poor performance on the fact that he had a several month layoff from when he defected to when he signed, which took him out of his normal routine. However, after a strong winter league in the Dominican Republic, many thought Maya would bounce back this season. That simply hasn't been the case.
The Nationals gave Maya a pretty sizeable contract for someone who had never pitched in the majors before. However, at this point, they have to be questioning his ,future role with the team. In each of his starts, he failed to show he had the stuff to beat a top-level team more than one time through the order, and was constantly getting pounded in the fourth and fifth innings. Given that, they may inevitably make him a reliever, but will probably keep him as a starting pitcher this season in case they need an emergency starter.
The Nationals currently have very few viable options to be used as emergency starters in Triple-A. Luckily, their starting rotation has been overwhelmingly solid this year, with just one pitcher missing a start the entire season. However, at some point, pitchers will break down - all of them not named Livan Hernandez do. This means that despite Maya's poor performance, we very likely will see him in Washington again some point between now and October.
Other potential options include Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiler and Tom Milone. Stammen has been used exclusively as a starter in Syracuse but has been often asked to be a reliever when called up to Washington, so it's unclear on what the organization's plan is for him. Detwiler was sent to Triple-A to fine-tune some things this season with the expectation that he would soon be recalled to join the rotation and be a solid starter moving forward, but it seems he has massively regressed.
Milone is another interesting option. In 11 Triple-A starts this season, he has posted a 3.58 ERA and has been one of the best strikeout pitchers in the International League. In 70 innings pitched, he has struck out 76 batters and walked just four, which works out to an impressive 19 K/BB rating. In just a matter of years, he has turned from a finesse pitcher in the mold of a John Lannan to a serious starting pitching prospect. It remains to be seen if the Nationals would call him up this year, or if general manager Mike Rizzo will stick to his guns and give him as much minor league seasoning as possible.
Will Yoder blogs about the Nationals for The Nats Blog, and offers his viewpoints this week as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.