On several occasions early this season, the Nationals have made it clear they weren't thrilled with Major league Baseball's decision to give them five off-days in the first month of the season, pointing out stretches like the one in May and early June, when they play 33 games in 34 days and take a pair of three-city road trips.
(That's the only such stretch they have until September, when they'll have call-ups on board to help with the load, so the schedule doesn't seem so bad to me. But that's just my two cents.)
So far, though, those off-days have served a purpose: they've acted as a buffer so the Nationals could minimize the early toll on their starting pitchers. Tom Gorzelanny won't make his third start of the season until tomorrow, and after Saturday's rainout forced them to play a doubleheader on Sunday, the Nationals didn't have to think about altering their pitching rotation, since Monday's off-day put Jason Marquis back on schedule.
They won't have that luxury after today's doubleheader, though, which means they may have to come up with some clever solutions for this weekend.
John Lannan, who was supposed to pitch last night and come back on Sunday in Pittsburgh. would now be making that start on short rest. Yunesky Maya, who allowed three runs in six innings at Triple-A Syracuse last night, could make a spot start on regular rest. The Nationals could send Collin Balester down as planned, and wait until Tuesday to bring back Todd Coffey. They could also get through the game with their bullpen, or bring Lannan back on short rest.
Ross Detwiler, who has impressed at Syracuse after a strong spring, is scheduled to pitch tonight for the Chiefs. If he gets scratched, or pulled after a couple innings, it could be a sign he's the choice. It's worth noting his first start in the majors last year came on short rest, when the Nationals needed a replacement after Luis Atilano developed elbow problems.
If the Nationals want to play it safe, they'd probably go with Maya or throw a bullpen game. But it wouldn't surprise me if they use the occasion to take a look at Detwiler.