With the season quickly approaching the Nationals announced yesterday that John Lannan, Jason Marquis, Craig Stammen, and Livan Hernandez will make up the first four spots of the clubs rotation, in that order. This leaves one spot remaining for three starting pitchers, Scott Olsen, J.D Martin, and Garret Mock.
The Nationals had all but awarded a spot in the rotation to Garret Mock earlier in the spring, but the stellar performance of Stammen and Hernandez in the recent weeks have helped them leapfrog the 26-year-old righty. In four games this spring Stammen has posted a 3.14 ERA with 10 strikeouts, and Hernandez showed the league that he can still get batters out when he shutdown the Yankees to one run last Wednesday.
Olsen made things harder last night when he had a stellar outing against the clubs National League East rival, the Atlanta Braves. Olsen allowed only one earned run in five and a third innings pitched, striking out four and walking none.
Analysis: Mock has all but pitched himself out of the rotation, allowing five runs in his last nine innings this spring. It had appeared that Olsen had done the same until last night when he showed a glimpse of the pitcher that he once was for the Marlins. Martin has posted a 6.30 ERA this spring, but had a solid outing last season with the club when he came up in September.
So where does this leave the Nationals? In a tough spot until late-May when both Wang and Strasburg are expected to return to the club. In the meantime the Nationals are left to choose between an inconsistent but talented pitcher (Mock), the pitcher who we all thought could have been a star in Washington (Olsen), or the spring underperformer (Martin).
With only a few games left in spring training, I believe this question will come down to one thing, contracts. Olsen has a major league contract meaning if the Nationals keep him past March 31, they'll owe him his full salary, if they cut him before then they will only owe him a small portion of that. The likelihood is that Wang and Strasburg will man the rotation from May on, meaning that if Olsen did make the club he would be either released or bumped down to Syracuse with his one remaining option for most of the season.
Martin and Mock have a few options remaining and have minor league deals, meaning they are much more flexible to use in that fifth rotation spot. It looks like Olsen may be receiving a pink slip very soon.