Jim Riggleman gave his customary update on the Nationals' rotation-in-recovery this afternoon - Jordan Zimmermann makes his first rehab start tomorrow for Single-A Potomac, Jason Marquis is "throwing pretty pain-free," Garrett Mock is a ways away and Ross Detwiler, who is building up arm strength at Double-A Harrisburg, might be the closest to returning of the Nationals' injured pitchers.
But then Riggleman added this caveat:
"It would be a boost, if they're throwing good. But our guys who are here now are doing a pretty good job. For me, it's not as if, if one of those guys jumps out and is getting some people out on their rehab (starts), that they would immediately replace some of the people we have."
None of that means the Nationals won't eventually have Zimmermann or Detwiler in their rotation later this year; it's likely a number of those pitchers will be here in the second half. But with the team's rotation pitching well, it's hard to assume the Nationals will have someone they can just lift out without blinking.
The Nationals have a staff ERA of 2.95 in their last 12 games, and three of their last four starters have notched quality starts. Luis Atilano, who faces the Mets tonight, seems to have come out of his first rookie lull (he has allowed three runs in his last 12 1/3 innings), and Craig Stammen gave up two runs in his first start back from Triple-A Syracuse.
It raises the threshold for the Nationals to put one of their injured starters back in the rotation, at least for now.
"We would have to know that, whether it's Detwiler and Marquis and all those guys, that they're really being effective where they're at, and bring them here comfortably, because that means somebody here would have to leave."
Zimmermann, who is returning from Tommy John surgery, will throw two innings or 35 pitches tomorrow for Potomac. He has been ahead of schedule the entire way through his rehab, general manager Mike Rizzo said, but the Nationals have dialed things back enough now that Zimmermann will pitch on a five-day schedule through his 30-day rehab assignment.