PHILADELPHIA | After his start against the Phillies on Sunday, his fourth loss in five games since returning from the disabled list, Scott Olsen got the standard opening question most pitchers get from reporters after their outings: What did he think of his start?
"It was OK," Olsen replied curtly.
And that's the problem: It was just OK. At a time when the Nationals are looking for spots to fit Jordan Zimmermann (who was tremendous in his last outing for Triple-A Syracuse) and Yunesky Maya (who was anything but tremendous on Sunday for Single-A Potomac), when Olsen is costing them bonus money with every outing, he was just OK.
He allowed four runs in six innings on Sunday, which might have been a little better or worse than the three runs in five innings he gave up in his last outing. Olsen thought it was worse, based on the two-run, two-out single he gave to Wilson Valdez, the No. 8 hitter in the Phillies' lineup.
The Nationals, though, don't have much wiggle room in their rotation; Jason Marquis seems to be in for now, based on a respectable outing on Friday. Besides, he's a sunk cost at $7.5 million, where Olsen is pulling down $100,000 in incentives each time he takes the mound. If Stephen Strasburg goes on the disabled list, Zimmermann could take his spot, but if he doesn't, the Nationals will be looking for a starter to lift soon.
"I haven't really thought of anything otherwise. I anticipate he'll certainly make his next start," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He threw OK in Atlanta. He threw good today. We've got Jordan Zimmermann coming at some point. But I anticipate Scotty will be pitching."
Olsen said he feels comfortable with all of his pitches, and bristled at the suggestion he was "searching" for better stuff. The one thing he pointed out was his trouble with preventing big innings, and added he's having trouble pitching out of a slide step with runners on base.
Catcher Wil Nieves said Olsen was speeding up his delivery in an effort to control the Phillies' prolific running game, which caused him to make some bad pitches. And Olsen said he hasn't spent enough time with the move to be comfortable with it.
"I feel as though I can control the running game without necessarily having to do the slide step all the time," Olsen said. "Obviously, there's times for it. But I feel like I need to better with that."
He's feeling healthy after missing two months with shoulder inflammation, and hasn't had another outing like the one he had 10 days ago against the Marlins, when Olsen lasted just 1 1/3 innings. But without something more convincing than what he showed Sunday, Olsen's spot in the rotation could belong to someone else before too long.