We've been hearing all season about all the injured pitchers the Nationals will eventually welcome back to their rotation. First, a quick primer on where all of them are at in their rehab:
Ross Detwiler (torn hip flexor): Done with rehab stint, pitching for Double-A Harrisburg, could get a call-up earlier in the second half than most on this list.
Jordan Zimmermann (Tommy John surgery): Rehabbing at Single-A Potomac; is ahead of schedule and could be in the majors in August (or September, if the Nationals go the cautious route).
Jason Marquis (bone chips in right elbow): Threw first live batting practice on Sunday; expected back sometime in August.
Scott Olsen (left shoulder inflammation): Experienced setbacks in rehab program in Viera, Fla, and is now pitching in Gulf Coast League; no timetable set for his return, though he's confident he will be back in July or August.
Chien-Ming Wang (shoulder surgery): Nats have not set a timetable for Wang, whose injury is more like what happened to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees than anyone in baseball; is expected back in August, but that's still tentative.
Garrett Mock (cervical spinal injury): Placed on 60-day DL in late June; not eligible to return until late August.
So that's the list of pitchers that could return to the Nationals sometime in the second half. What makes this more complicated is that the Nationals were hoping to see a couple of them in the first half of the season. But ZImmermann and Detwiler are the only ones who look to be on the front ends of their recovery timetables.
Who, then, will we see in the majors in the second half? I'd say it's fairly likely Zimmermann will be in the rotation at some point. The Nationals will want to see Marquis, since they owe him $7.5 million next season and will either need reassurance that he's healthy or some proof of that fact for a possible trade. The reality, though, is that they're probably stuck with Marquis for 2011.
I'm not sure we'll see Olsen this season, or in a Nationals uniform next season, for that matter. His agent, Matt Sosnick, told the Washington Post that Olsen expects to be big league ready by July 20. For the Nationals' sake, that'd be tremendous, since Olsen was pitching well before he got hurt. But he's barely started a rehab assignment, and it might be mid-August or early September before he's ready. With Detwiler, Zimmermann and Marquis possibly all needing innings by that point (not to mention all five members of the Nationals' current rotation, who could stay in their current spots until Stephen Strasburg runs out of innings at the end of August), there might not be much space for Olsen.
Wang is the most interesting case. At this point, the Nationals have no idea exactly what they're getting on the $2 million investment they made last winter. It could be nothing more than a down payment on 2011, as the Nationals will retain Wang's rights after this year. But would they offer him a contract if he hasn't pitched in the majors? That remains to be seen. It's why they'd love to have some assurance about his health by the end of this year.
So, to sort this all out, here's how I think the Nationals' rotation might look on August 15:
And on Sept. 1, or whenever Strasburg runs out of innings:
J.D. Martin (or Chien-Ming Wang, if he's ready)
This doesn't even touch on the other contingencies - John Lannan making a return to the majors, the Nationals selling high on Hernandez, once again, and trading him for a couple prospects this month. But with or without those scenarios, it's going to be an interesting, and fluid, second half for the Nationals' rotation.