Here's the current state of the Nationals' rotation: Stephen Strasburg is in it, until he runs out of innings. Livan Hernandez is in, and John Lannan appears to be a fixture again. Scott Olsen looks in, even though he's struggled lately, and for the moment, Jason Marquis is in.
Jordan Zimmermann, who is returning from Tommy John surgery, pitches for Triple-A Syracuse tonight, and the Nationals want to work him into the rotation yet this year, possibly as soon as his next outing. Yunesky Maya will pitch for Single-A Potomac on Sunday, and general manager Mike Rizzo said the Cuban right-hander will make at least one start at Double-A Harrisburg or Triple-A Syracuse before the Nationals think about adding him, too, to the rotation.
At the beginning of September, that leaves as many as seven pitchers needing starts in the Nationals' rotation, all with their own good reasons to be there. It also leaves the Nationals with the scheduling conundrum they've been anticipating all season.
"We're going to have to do some juggling with the rotation," Rizzo said. "We'll have seven starters for five rotation spots. But we may piggyback a couple of guys. There's a lot of things we may do. (Manager) Jim (Riggleman) and (pitching coach Steve) McCatty and I are going to sit down and discuss that when we get closer to that situation. We see them as starting pitchers, so they're going to get starts in the big leagues. We'll see what happens with the seven guys for five spots."
By "piggybacking," I took Rizzo to mean the Nationals might throw two starting pitchers in the same game, like they'd do in spring training. Zimmermann and Maya aren't likely to be going deep into games, anyway, so one could come out of the bullpen in the middle of the game. They also will have a spot open when Strasburg runs out of innings in mid-September, and Marquis could make their decision easier with another ugly start tonight - though Rizzo obviously wasn't going to say that today.
One thing he said they won't do, however, is consider a six-man rotation. "A six-man rotation, with all the days off we have, turns into seven and eight days between starts," Rizzo said.