SAN DIEGO - It seems like right now the focus for the Nationals is less on what's happening today and more on what could happen tomorrow and in the next week and the weeks to come after that. Such is life when you're 14 games up with 41 games to play and have a host of injured players attempting to return in advance of a likely postseason run.
So let's take a moment this morning and look at where the Nationals pitching staff stands heading into this new week.
Max Scherzer's unexpected trip to the disabled list with inflammation in his neck has thrown a proverbial wrench into the club's plans. Scherzer was adamant the other night that he knows how to take care of this and ensure he's back when eligible to come off the DL on Friday, but until he's actually back throwing with no neck issues the Nats have to at least consider a backup plan.
The good news is that Monday's off-day helps put less strain on the rotation. The bad news is that even if Scherzer comes back as scheduled, the team still plays a day-night doubleheader one week from today and will need to call up somebody to start of those games.
Here's what we know for now: Gio Gonzalez is starting today's series finale against the Padres. Tanner Roark, Edwin Jackson and Stephen Strasburg are lined up to start Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Houston, with Strasburg having proven he's healthy during his 91-pitch outing Saturday night.
That gets the Nationals to next weekend's home series against the Mets, at which point some decisions will need to be made.
The linchpin will be Scherzer, whose availability or unavailability will determine how the rest of the rotation lines up. If he makes good on his vow to return Friday, then the Nationals can start Gonzalez on an extra day's rest Saturday, with Roark pitching one of Sunday's games. If Scherzer can't go, Gonzalez would need to move up to Friday on normal rest, with somebody else starting Saturday.
That somebody else figures to be Erick Fedde, who is next scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Syracuse on Monday. That would make the rookie right-hander available to the Nationals either Saturday or Sunday.