When the Nationals got Scott Olsen back from the disabled list two weeks ago, the addition was the first of three key moves that looked like it would bolster the team's rotation for the second half of the season.
But all three of those pitchers - Olsen, Jason Marquis and Stephen Strasburg - have turned in ugly starts since coming back to the majors, none more wretched than the one Olsen offered up on Wednesday night.
The problem was not the left-hander's arm strength in a 9-5 loss to the Florida Marlins; his fastball was sitting consistently between 90 and 92 mph and topped out at 94 mph, the fastest it's been all year. No, the issue came when Olsen's 56 pitches reached the plate. Twenty-four of them missed the strike zone, eight of them were stung for base hits and one - a belt-high, flat-lined fastball to Hanley Ramirez - was launched halfway up the Red Porch seats in center field of Nationals Park.
Olsen was gone after 1 1/3 innings, which tied his June 30, 2005 outing as the shortest of his career. He has an 8.24 ERA since coming off the disabled list, and instead of being a boon to the Nationals' rotation, he's trying to pick himself up after a brutal night.
"You get your ass kicked, you get your ass kicked, regardless of you're throwing 88 or 95," Olsen said. "It doesn't matter. You're still out there getting killed. It's frustrating, no matter how you look at it."
The left-hander was behind with his fastball most of the night, and when he was forced to come over the plate with it, the Marlins teed off on it. His slider was decent at times, but he didn't throw enough first-pitch strikes to make it effective.
"For me, he just got a bad day," catcher Ivan Rodriguez said. "He threw a few good sliders. Some of the sliders, he left over the plate. But he just got a bad day. That's part of baseball."
The added velocity came on a night where Olsen's fastball lacked movement, but manager Jim Riggleman said he didn't have a problem with the 26-year-old pitching consistently in the low 90s, pointing out he threw that hard in his three years with the Marlins.
Olsen, who was on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation and had shoulder surgery last year, said he felt strong.
"(Olsen) was throwing the ball good," Riggleman said. "The ball was coming out of his hand good. He probably threw too many fastballs in the first inning, and they got him. But maybe he felt real good with his arm. That's the best velocity he's had."
But he wasn't effective, and that's the problem.
His early exit makes 14 starts this season where the Nationals have seen their starter exit before the end of the fifth inning. The bullpen has worked 374 1/3 innings this year, third-most in baseball, and 12 1/3 of those have come in the last two days.
The Nationals will have to continue evaluating whether Olsen is part of their future, and they'll pick it up five days from now at the cost of $250,000 - Olsen made his 11th start of the year on Wednesday, and has triggered incentives in his contract based on the number of starts he makes.
On Wednesday, it amounted to four very expensive outs.
"I made terrible pitches," Olsen said. "You make bad pitches, they hit 'em, and that's what happens."