Saturday, May 19, 2007

Nationals' Starting Rotation -- Take Two: Saturday night, Mike Bacsik will take the mound for the Nationals, instead of Jason Bergmann, who was placed on the disabled list. The significance of this start should not be overlooked. The Nats are now six weeks into the season, a season that began with the Nationals putting together a starting rotation of John Patterson, Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann, rookie Matt Chico, and Jerome Williams. Though the Nats' pitchers had a rough go-around the first time through the rotation, this crew proved surprisingly effective.

Unfortunately, the Nats are down to their 'last man standing': Matt Chico. The other four starters are all now on the disabled list. This isn't entirely surprising, given the fact that three of the four were coming off significant arm injuries suffered last year. The Nats have been able to bring up Jason Simontacchi, an early contender for the rotation, who got bumped from consideration because of a groin injury he suffered in spring training. The other two most likely replacements would be Joel Hanrahan and Emiliano Fruto, but both of them are currently injured. So, it falls to Mike Bacsik, on Saturday. On Sunday, Micah Bowie will make what I believe may be his first start of the decade. Then, relief pitcher Levale Speigner will get his second consecutive start, before the Nats finally get back around to Chico, the lone survivor from the original rotation.

None of the injuries appear very serious, and mostly they might have been predictable for pitchers that were coming off previous arm injuries. The exception might be Hill, whose elbow pain is being attributed to a shoulder separation he suffered sliding back into third base, a few weeks back. The injury was to his non-throwing arm, but may have added stress to his pitching arm.

While the Nats seem to be victims of circumstance, one has to wonder why the Nats are suffering so many injuries. The New York Yankees went through a similar spell at the beginning of the season, and they canned their new fitness coach. Perhaps, the Nationals should take a look at their conditioning program, and consider whether they need to make changes in their practices or their personnel. Most pitchers will miss a start or two during a season because of some tenderness, or nagging injury. But so many pitchers, and all so early in the season? This cannot auger well for the rest of the season.

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