Nationals manager Davey Johnson isn’t ready to reveal the team’s entire pitching staff for the start of the second half - when asked for it Saturday afternoon, he quickly responded, “Has Atlanta announced theirs?” But he did give enough detail that it’s fairly easy to figure out where the Nationals will line up their starters once they return from the All-Star break against the Braves next Friday.
Livan Hernandez will start the first game after the break, and if he’s able to pitch, John Lannan will likely throw the second game. And Jordan Zimmermann will probably pitch the fifth game after the All-Star break in Houston, so Johnson can stretch out Zimmermann’s remaining innings closer to Sept. 1. That would leave Jason Marquis and Tom Gorzelanny, in some order, to pitch the third and fourth games after the break.
The plan for Zimmermann isn’t completely set yet; Johnson said he was planning to talk with pitching coach Steve McCatty about it over the break, and he still sounded skeptical on Saturday about how to handle the pitcher’s remaining innings.
Zimmermann has thrown 108 2/3 innings this season, and the Nationals want to cap him around 160 innings, which would likely end his season in late August unless the Nationals space out or shorten his starts.
“McCatty’s got a plan to kind of stretch him out that will be good for him and not as bad for the team,” Johnson said. “I’ve heard the plan, and I’m not that comfortable with it. We’ll have the break to discuss that formula. I’m not quite set on how that goes down. I’ll probably need some medical opinions and all this other stuff.”
Johnson still sounded undecided about whether he’d rather have Zimmermann work on extra rest to ration his innings, or pitch him on regular rest and have his innings run out earlier in August. By the time he’s done, the Nationals could have Chien-Ming Wang back, and there’s still a possibility Stephen Strasburg could join them sometime in September.
But neither of those scenarios are concrete yet, so Johnson still has to be careful about managing Zimmermann’s innings and getting as much out of his best starter as he can.
“There’s all kinds of thought processes that go into it,” Johnson said. “But from a baseball standpoint, I want to win. I’m thinking of winning. It’s a tough question.”