LaRoche battling flu, Detwiler's return not imminent

I approached Adam LaRoche in the Nationals' clubhouse a bit ago to check in on him and ask if he was feeling OK, seeing as how he's been held out of the Nats' lineup for tonight's game against the Dodgers.

"You might want to keep your distance," LaRoche responded in a quiet, somewhat raspy voice.

LaRoche has been dealing with the flu over the last couple of days, an illness that has left him drained and his body feeling achy. As a result, he'll sit tonight's game out, meet with a team doctor in a back room and stay somewhat isolated from his teammates.

Manager Davey Johnson said that he hopes to have LaRoche back tomorrow, but that's obviously dependent on how he responds over the next 24 hours.

While LaRoche might just be a day or two away from returning to action, it doesn't sound likely that left-hander Ross Detwiler will be ready to be activated off the disabled list anytime in the immediate future.

Detwiler, who was placed on the DL with a lower back strain July 7 (retroactive to July 4), threw off flat ground yesterday, but Johnson said that Detwiler is still feeling some discomfort in his back the day after throwing.

The Nats had hoped to have Detwiler throw a bullpen session today, but they'll bump him back because of the lingering discomfort. Johnson all but ruled out the possibility of Detwiler starting on Tuesday, the next time his turn in the rotation comes up, and it sounds like the chances of the left-hander starting one of the two games of next Friday's split doubleheader against the Mets aren't great, either.

"For me, he would have to throw today or tomorrow and do a side (session) and then pitch in a (rehab) game," Johnson said. "And I don't think we're going to do it by then. But I'm going to put that question to our great medical staff, see if they can't get him ready to go."

If Detwiler isn't able to return in time for Friday's doubleheader, Johnson said he's more likely to use someone from his bullpen - probably Ross Ohlendorf - to get a spot start, rather than call up someone from the minors.

While the Nats wait on Detwiler, they'll continue to turn to rookie right-hander Taylor Jordan to fill out the rotation.

Jordan has impressed the Nats in his four starts at the big league level this season, posting a 3.32 ERA in those outings. His 0-2 record isn't really representative of the way he's pitched, and he'll keep getting a chance to learn and grow on the fly as long as Detwiler is out.

In his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, Jordan will be on an innings limit this season, a number that general manager Mike Rizzo declined to reveal. But while Jordan will be shut down at some point, that point isn't coming up anytime soon.

He's already thrown 112 innings this season between the minors and his stint with the Nats, and still has a ways to go this season.

"Nobody's told me he's close to being shut down, so that's not in the equation yet," Johnson said.

Meanwhile, Johnson opted to put Denard Span back at the top of his order tonight, hit Bryce Harper fourth and have Chad Tracy, who is starting at first in LaRoche's stead, batting seventh. He had hit Harper leadoff in the final game before the All-Star break, but opted to revert back to writing Span's name in the leadoff spot against the Dodgers tonight.

The reason for that?

"They have a good, strong bullpen, a strong left side of the bullpen, so I like to have some separation (with my left-handed hitters), like I did last game out," Johnson said. "So that's the way I'd separate it."

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