Steve Mears: Looking at candidates for a fifth starter in D.C.

One week from today, the Washington Nationals will need a fifth starter for their rotation, and we found out that Joe Ross will not be ready to return to the rotation any time soon due to soreness in his throwing shoulder. To complicate matters, the location for this August 16th game is none other than Coors Field in Colorado, where even aces have been humbled by the altitude. To complicate matters further, the Nats will probably need this fifth starter for a while as the schedule does not have any days off after that August 16th date until Thursday, September 1st when rosters can expand.

The Nationals could go back to Reynaldo Lopez or Lucas Giolito once again, but is it time to look at a different solution? Giolito has made three starts for a total of 11 innings, in which relievers had to pick up 16 innings of relief in those starts. That equates to 5 1/3 innings of relief in each start, which taxed the bullpen. The Nationals are 1-2 in games started by Giolito. For Lopez, he has made two starts for a total of 8 2/3 innings in which relievers had to pick up 9 1/3 innings of relief, and both of Lopez's starts finished in Nationals losses. The Nationals are a combined 1-4 started by these two top prospects. Each left the bullpen in shambles.

The other choices are moving Yusmeiro Petit or Blake Treinen back to the rotation, which is not ideal, or looking to A.J. Cole, who happens to be the only other starter beside Giolito and Lopez on the 40-man roster. Cole owns a 4.30 ERA this season in Triple-A Syracuse. Cole's season has been very good in some starts, but overall has been inconsistent from start-to-start.

General manager Mike Rizzo could once again look at adding a pitcher to the 40-man roster, which would require making room for another player as the 40-man roster is currently at capacity. Candidates in the system to be added would be Austin Voth, who is also in Triple-A Syracuse, and has a 3.45 ERA there, or the Nationals could look to add veteran Mat Latos who is currently pitching for the Nationals in the Gulf Coast League.

There are no easy solutions to this situation. Rizzo and manager Dusty Baker will have to make sure that the pitcher they want is on schedule to make the start. We should get clues shortly if a pitcher's schedule is changed.

Steve Mears blogs about the Nationals for Talk Nats. Follow the blog on Twitter: @TalkNats2. His thoughts on the Nationals will appear here as part of's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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