Nationals manager Jim Riggleman told reporters after last night's game that the team would "re-evaluate" Luis Atilano's spot in the rotation after he allowed five runs in four innings in the Nationals' 8-7 loss to the Reds on Tuesday. Quite frequently, that's manager-speak for, "We need to talk about it some more, but we're probably going to send him down to the minors."
It doesn't seem like keeping Atilano in the rotation right now is doing the Nationals much good. He's allowed 14 runs in his last 13 innings over three starts, failing to last longer than 5 1/3 innings in any of them. He's got a 1-to-1 strikeout-to walk ratio in that time, and he added a shellacking in Syracuse to the list over the All-Star break, giving up five runs in 2 1/3 innings of a start for the Nationals' Triple-A affiliate designed to keep him sharp over the All-Star break.
Atilano's next start would be Sunday, and if the Nationals wanted to make a move, they might have a bit of a tough time finding someone to take the start. Matt Chico, one likely replacement, pitched last Sunday for Syracuse, so he'd be scheduled to throw again on Friday and would have to be bumped back two days. And Scott Olsen, another possible candidate to land in the rotation, is pitching on Thursday, making only his second start of a rehab assignment to come back from left shoulder inflammation. Not only would he not line up to pitch on Sunday, the Nationals would probably want to see Olsen make one more start before returning to the majors.
Those two pitchers present some logistical issues, but in Ross Detwiler, we might have our solution. The left-hander has pitched well in six starts for Double-A Harrisburg, posting a 3.16 ERA after returning from hip surgery. He's lined up to pitch tonight for Harrisburg, so if the Nationals had Atilano make his Sunday start in Milwaukee and wanted to option him to the minors after that, they could do it relatively easily, with a Monday off-day to help them.
Because of that, all the Nationals' starters get pushed back a day, lining up Detwiler and Atilano for July 31. Detwiler could slip into the rotation that day without a problem, and Atilano could head back to Syracuse.
Given another start, Atilano could change the Nationals' minds, and if his sinker is on, he potentially matches up well with the fastball-hitting Brewers. But I'm not sure if one outing would be enough to change the conversation about him, especially when the Nationals could wait one more outing and swap out Atilano for a pitcher they've been excited to see anyway.
We should know more about Atilano's standing in another day or so. For now, those are some things to think about.