Atahualpa Severino is still in the Nationals' bullpen, but for the second year in a row, his call-up around the trade deadline doesn't seem like it will last long. Manager Davey Johnson said he'd like another long reliever - preferably a right-handed option - to pitch in case a starter's night ends early.
The Nationals' starters have struggled lately, and with Jason Marquis leaving in a trade, Johnson has lost a pitcher he'd been able to count on for innings. "I'm sitting over here, and I'm nervous," Johnson said. "I don't have the innings to get to my bullpen." One candidate for long relief could be Collin Balester, who threw four innings at Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday. "I talked to (Syracuse manager) Randy Knorr about it, and he said, 'He's available Wednesday - we're off,'" Johnson said. "I said, 'That's great; you're off, so now we can have somebody.' But he was joking." Tom Gorzelanny can pitch in a long relief role, but Johnson would like one more choice.
The Nationals plan to take a look at Brad Peacock and Tom Milone, two of their pitching prospects at Triple-A Syracuse, in the second half. Either one could pitch out of the bullpen, or they could wind up in the rotation at some point late in the year. Johnson said Milone is probably slightly ahead of Peacock. He went on the disabled list Monday with a sore right biceps muscle, but Johnson said that was a precautionary move to give him some rest. "You look at his walks and strikeouts, and they're unbelievable," Johnson said of Milone. "It tells me he's not afraid to throw it over."
But it doesn't seem like Johnson will do what Jim Riggleman did, holding prospects out when facing teams that were in the playoff race out of respect for the process. He has talked frequently about the need to develop players and solve as many questions the rest of this season as he can. He'll spend much of the final two months doing that with his pitching staff.