NEW YORK | Lots of news this morning, so we'll just get right to it:
--The Nationals optioned starter Garrett Mock to Triple-A Syracuse this morning to make room for Livan Hernandez, who pitches today against the Mets. Manager Jim Riggleman said the Nationals will likely make Scott Olsen the new fifth starter, calling him up in time to pitch Thursday against the Phillies and bumping John Lannan back a day. Mock got the job over Olsen at the end of spring, but the Nationals weren't happy with the way he pitched in his last two starts of the exhibition season. He needed 84 pitches, though, to get through 3 1/3 innings against the Mets on Friday night, and general manager Mike Rizzo said that start factored "quite a bit" into the decision to send Mock down.
"We need starters to go longer than 3 1/3 innings, because it takes the bullpen, and it's very difficult to win a game when your starter goes out," Rizzo said. "He's not the only pitcher that hasn't gone deep into games. But the performance I saw the last couple spring training (games) and the one Friday night, his mechanics were so out of whack that he needed to go down and work on that so he can come back up and utilize his stuff."
Mock said the Nationals told him he needed to throw more strikes, but that was only one factor in the decision.
"It's not just throwing less pitches, and it's not just attacking hitters," Mock said. "It wasn't just, 'Oh, here's one little facet of your game you need to polish up.' It's, 'Go down there and win. Go throw six, seven, eight innings and win.' That's what the team is focused on here, and that's what they need."
Said Riggleman: "It could be a rotating shuttle there, between here and Syracuse, until somebody nails that spot down."
--Outfielder Mike Morse, who has been limited to pinch-hit duties the last two days because of a strained left calf, was put on the 15-day disabled list this morning, and the Nationals called up outfielder Roger Bernadina from Syracuse.
"Right now, with him not being able to run and us being worried about (Ryan) Zimmerman running, we didn't have enough able bodies to manage the ballgame, so we had to get a healthy body here. To do that, we had to put somebody on the DL, and that was Mike."
Riggleman said the Nationals are effectively back to the platoon of Willie Harris and Willy Taveras in right field, though Bernadina will get some time there. That won't happen as much in the next few days because of all the left-handed pitching the Nationals will face (Johan Santana today, Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ in Philadelphia). Cristian Guzman might also play in right field against a left-hander.
--Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is out of the lineup today, and could sit out tomorrow, as well. Zimmerman said his left hamstring feels better than it did yesterday, and he will get treatment on it today. He didn't want to rule out playing tomorrow against the Phillies, but said he's feeling the injury enough that it gives him second thoughts about fighting through it.
"I felt it on the play on (Alex) Cora, (who had an infield single to third in the third inning yesterday)," Zimmerman said. "That's a play I make all the time. If I can't make that play, it's not fair to the team."
The Nationals are off on Tuesday, so their hope would be that rest on Sunday and Monday, coupled with an off-day, would be enough to get Zimmerman healthy.
--Lastly, Stephen Strasburg is set for his minor-league debut for Double-A Harrisburg today in Altoona. He'll throw six innings or 85 pitches, whichever comes first, though the Nationals don't plan to throw him that many innings each time out. Strasburg will be capped between 140-150 innings this year, and the Nationals don't want to waste innings in Harrisburg that could be at Triple-A Syracuse or the majors. According to Kristen Hudak, who is covering the game in Altoona today, Senators manager Randy Knorr said the main goals with Strasburg at Harrisburg are to get him used to pitching every five days, fielding his position and learning to get quick outs. He also said the Senators will limit Strasburg's workload on certain night. Finally, Knorr said closer Drew Storen is "very close" to being ready for the majors, and is working on situational things like throwing multiple innings and back-to-back games.
Phew. That's all the news that's fit to file to the web. I'll have the live thread in a little bit.