Depending upon what happens between next Monday and October, perhaps we'll look back at this spring training as the coming-of-age of righthander Craig Stammen.
Stammen's performance has been fairly notable over the past few weeks. He's pitched just over 14 innings, allowing 5 earned runs on 10 hits and 4 walks. He's also struck out ten hitters, earning a win, a loss and a save. The former 12th round pick (2005) has been sharper than any other Nats' starter in exhibition play.
His success isn't a total shock; before his promotion from Syracuse last May he'd pitched to a 1.80 ERA in AAA. Not a big strikeout guy - just 48 in 105 big league innings in 2009 - he commands his 90-92 fastball on both sides of the plate, and this spring has shown a plus curve and a plus slider. His change is only average, but "he knows how to pitch," as some scouts put it.
Having said all that, at this point he seems to be slotted in as either the 3rd, 4th or 5th arm in the rotation, depending largely on who grabs the last couple of slots. I'm looking at Lannan, Marquis, Stammen, Hernandez and Olsen at this second, but at least one of those is subject to change. I think the club would prefer two lefties in the rotation, but it's not etched in stone.
Speaking of pitching, sources say the Nats were runners-up to the A's in the race to sign Chad Gaudin after his release by the Yankees. Washington reportedly offered more money, but Chad has a history in Oakland - he was an Athletic 2006-2008 - and preferred familiar territory.