Cole likely to start Wednesday, weekend rotation unsure

MIAMI - Last week's rainout in Washington has left the Nationals in a quandary, needing to call up a pitcher from their system to start Wednesday's series finale in Miami. But thanks to the long-term domino effect of the rainout, Sunday's doubleheader and Wednesday's one-time call-up, the Nats will have the ability to set their rotation however they like for this weekend's series in Chicago.

What that all means ...

A.J. Cole is expected to be promoted from Triple-A Syracuse to start Wednesday night against the Marlins. Because this will be their sixth game in five days, the Nationals can't use any current members of their rotation without pushing someone to pitch on short rest.

Cole-Throws-Gray-Sidebar.jpgCole is 4-4 with a 5.66 ERA in 16 starts for Syracuse but is the only member of the Chiefs rotation who is on the 40-man roster and fully rested to make the start. The right-hander has been held out of competition the last few days to keep him available for the promotion.

This will be Cole's 11th big league start, his second this season. He faced the Phillies on May 6, allowing just one run on six hits in six strong innings.

Once they get through this series, the Nationals have the ability to reset their rotation in advance of a big weekend series against the Cubs.

If they kept everyone pitching in order, they would send Tanner Roark to the mound Friday, with Erick Fedde and Edwin Jackson (who started the doubleheader against the Rockies) pitching Saturday and Sunday. But they'll have the option of skipping two of those pitchers and instead using Gio Gonzalez on Saturday and Max Scherzer on Sunday on normal rest, thanks to Thursday's day off.

That scenario would allow the Nationals to pitch their best starters against Chicago and avoid sending the erratic Jackson or the inexperienced Fedde into a difficult matchup at Wrigley Field.

"We're going to discuss that," manager Dusty Baker said. "We're going to talk to (assistant general manager) Bob Miller and (pitching coach) Mike Maddux, and we'll come up with something. We'll try to come up with something that breaks up Sunday's doubleheader starters, to separate those two guys."

There are other complicating factors, however. Gonzalez's wife is due to give birth to the couple's second child any day, and so he will be heading out on paternity leave at some point.

Stephen Strasburg, meanwhile, is eligible to come off the 10-day DL on Thursday, though it appears unlikely the Nationals will rush to bring the right-hander back that soon. Strasburg has been playing catch while recovering from a nerve impingement in his elbow, and he will need to throw something along the lines of a simulated game in the bullpen several days before taking the mound for a game again.

Baker suggested that simulated game probably would not be taking place in the next few days, which would push back Strasburg's timeline to return.

"He's coming along fine," Baker said. "He's feeling better. Right now, it's the status quo. He's thrown a couple pens. We're just trying to analyze him, make sure he's 100 percent."

Meanwhile, the Nationals are expecting newly acquired reliever Brandon Kintzler to join the club Wednesday. The right-hander was in San Diego awaiting the Twins' series against the Padres when he learned of his trade. He spent today traveling cross-country, so the Nationals are giving him another day to officially report and be in uniform for the first time.

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