Despite some talk from manager Davey Johnson about Stephen Strasburg possibly getting moved up in the rotation and starting Sunday after his rain-shortened start last night, Johnson said today that Strasburg will stay on his current turn and pitch Monday against the Phillies.
As for Sunday’s starter, Johnson isn’t able to settle on a guy just yet, needing to see how things play out tonight. Ross Ohlendorf seems to be the most likely guy to get the start for the Nationals against the Mets on Sunday, as Johnson expects to need Tanner Roark in relief today. But should Roark not be needed to bail out a depleted bullpen tonight, he could end up getting his first career major league start Sunday.
“I haven’t talked to (pitching coach Steve McCatty), but we’ll probably stay with Ohlendorf on Sunday. That’s depending on today,” Johnson said.
“I’m thinking I’ll probably need (Roark). If I don’t, then I’ll flip-flop. I did tell Roark that he might be the first man out today. Hopefully, Gio (Gonzalez) throws a gem and hopefully we score a bunch of runs.”
So why not have Strasburg come back a day early and start Sunday, given that the righty threw just 22 pitches yesterday before the rain delay knocked him from the game?
“It’s changing what he’s used to,” Johnson said. “It’s not something that has to be decided right now. We’ll see how he feels playing catch over the next couple days. It can always change.”
Strasburg had his back tighten up on him when he tried to stay loose during the rain delay, something that the righty insisted afterward was completely normal given the circumstances.
“I don’t think it’s anything,” Johnson said. “I think it was just, when you get all geared up and it was hot and he was sweating a lot during his warmup ... he had a little problem in the bullpen. He was sweating so much, the balls were slippery. That got him all out of sorts. Then his first pitch to (Justin) Ruggiano was up and in. And after he had been out a half an hour, he was a concerned that he had a little tightness in his left side. It was probably just normal stiffness when you don’t keep doing something.
“I’m not real concerned about it. I’m sure he would be. He wants to be 100 percent. We’ll see how he is today, how he feels throwing and playing catch.”
Meanwhile, the Nationals’ bullpen has been incredibly busy lately, working 52 1/3 innings over the Nats’ last 12 games, an average of more than 4 1/3 innings per night.
The Nats have played three extra-inning games in those last 12 contests - a 10-inning game, a 13-inning game and a 15-inning marathon. They’ve had numerous rain delays, which have impacted how Johnson has handled his bullpen. (Last night’s delay knocked Strasburg from the game after just two innings, forcing the Nats’ bullpen to put together seven innings of work.) They’ve had Strasburg ejected after recording just three outs.
That’s made things tough for Johnson, who has needed to try and cobble together ways to get guys in the bullpen into proper spots while also making sure he doesn’t wear anyone down too much.
“Going back to Strasburg’s early exit in Atlanta and Gio having a problem, then the game last night, it’s been difficult,” Johnson said. “I haven’t really been able to get my A and B (bullpens), with exception to (Tyler) Clippard, who’s been lights-out no matter how I’ve used him. I really have been missing the part of that bullpen that handles any kind of lineup going against us. I’ve had to lean more heavily on Clip, (Rafael) Soriano and (Drew) Storen. That other little piece in there hasn’t really jumped up.
“As a manager, I manage the bullpen and bench against their bullpen and bench. We haven’t had as good a fit as we did last year. It’s been difficult. Then there’s been some inconsistencies for the starters which has put more work on the long men.”