Rachel Levitin: What if the Nats lost a starting pitcher to injury?

What would happen if a member of the Nationals’ starting rotation were to suffer an injury? What would happen if there’s more than one man down over the course of the season? I’m not saying such a tragedy is inevitable nor am I saying it will happen, but it’s a definite “what if” that should be thrown into the season-long equation as a safety measure.

The starting staff remains the sole portion of the Nats’ lineup that hasn’t seen a harsh blow thrown its way in the form of a trip to the disabled list during the regular season. It appears the surplus of starting pitchers in spring training ended up being the team’s stronghold.

General manager Mike Rizzo built the team what it needed: a resilient crop of starting pitchers from which to choose. The trade for Gio Gonzalez, which sent a majority of young guns from the Nats’ farm system to the A’s, was still a positive move. Why? Rizzo crafted his rotation and bullpen around the move (in addition to other offseason trades) and still ended up with a surplus.

If I were the gambling kind, then I’d say that this is the exact scenario to be watching for throughout the season: what’s going to happen when a starter needs replacing? There are qualified and talented men waiting in the wings. There’s no denying that. What will be interesting to see is who will be the first to shake up a five-man rotation that hasn’t been tampered with since opening day.

Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan are still working with the Triple-A Syracuse Cheifs. Once Wang’s ready for his return from rehab, though, where will he fit? This, of course, has been a lingering question since Ross Detwiler not only beat out Lannan for the fifth spot, but watched as Lannan got sent down to the minors. Does Detwiler stay or will he go?

The good news is that survival is eminent given the reasonable amount of depth available to patch up any scrapes to the rotation along the way. Things will start getting really interesting if Stephen Strasburg gets shut down later this year, but only time will tell if those are just words flowing in the rumor mill or an eventual reality.

Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation’s capital 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.

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