When the 2014 season rolls around, the Washington Nationals are going to have a difficult decision to make when it comes to the back end of their starting pitching rotation. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann have spots one through three locked up, but what about the fourth and fifth pitcher in the rotation?
There are three very viable options that the Nationals will turn to to fill those two remaining spots. Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark and Ross Ohlendorf all have a legitimate shot at one of those final two spots, and they will be fighting mightily throughout spring training for them. On a number of other ballclubs, those three could fill three of the five spots in the rotation. For the Nationals, one of them will become the odd man out.
If we’re going off of their 2013 performances, you can automatically give Roark one of those spots. He’s had a sensational season and is 3-0 in his only three starts this month. He’s struck out 13 batters while walking just two. Roark has given up just two runs on 12 hits in 19 innings of work.
The final remaining spot now falls between the Rosses. This decision goes beyond the numbers and stats since Detwiler hasn’t really gotten a chance to prove his worth this season. He’s been on and off the disabled list and is nearly at the end of a stint on the 60-day DL. There have been some reports that Detwiler could make an appearance out of the bullpen before the season is over. He won’t start a ball game until the winter leagues begin play. The Nationals plan on putting him in the winter leagues so he can make up for lost innings during the season.
With Detwiler on the disabled list, it gave the other Ross, Ohlendorf, a chance to step up and he seized his opportunity. In seven starts this season, Ohlendorf is 3-1 with a 3.52 ERA and 24 strike outs. The only thing about Ohlendorf that’s holding him back is his start-to-start longevity. He’s usually only good for about five innings, and then the wheels usually fall off. Just three times has he gone past five innings and only once has he made it into the seventh. Usually, you hope for six-to-seven innings from your starter on a regular basis.
Wednesday night’s start against the Atlanta Braves was the perfect example of Ohlendorf’s struggles past the fifth inning. After throwing five scoreless, he then gave up three runs on four hits in the six inning, including two home runs to Dan Uggla and Justin Upton. Prior to that dreadful sixth inning, Ohlendorf was mowing through Atlanta’s lineup.
The battle of the Rosses will be one to monitor throughout the winter months. Both could see some action in the winter leagues. Detwiler’s will be played to make up for lost innings and Ohlendorf could simply work in the winter to build stamina. At any rate, both pitchers have some work to do if they want to take that fifth and final spot.
It’s a problem, for sure, but a fantastic problem. In 2014, the Nationals will have two vacant spots on the pitching rotation and will have three great options to fill those two spots. It should be interesting to see how that battle will pan out in spring training.