Washington Nationals: Bullpen Or Rotation? Stammen, Balester And Mock?

Washington Nationals' right-hander Craig Stammen, an '05 12th Round pick from the Nats' first draft class, made 87 starts and 107 overall appearances in the DC system before making his debut in DC last season on May 21st. The soon-to-be 26-year-old sinking fastballer was (4-7) with Washington, posting a 5.11 ERA (4.68 FIP) with a 1.29 WHIP, 24 BB (2.0 BB/9) and 48 K's (4.1 K/9) before he was shut down for the year with an elbow injury (bone spurs) which required arthroscopic surgery. MLB.com's Bill Ladson reported that Stammen's elbow was 100% in a 1/31/10 blog post entitled, "Nats tidbits for Sunday", in which asked the pitcher if he'd be willing to make a move the bullpen this season as had been rumored earlier this winter. Mr. Stammen's response, as Mr. Ladson reports it, is one we'd hear several times this winter... "(Stammen) said he is willing to be a starter or reliever in 2010, but he is going into Spring Training believing that he will be a starter."

Collin Balester, who'll turn 24 this June, was included along with Stammen in MLB.com's Bill Ladson's Twitter message during the Winter Meetings which speculated that some of the Nationals' young arms could be counted on to pitch out of the pen in 2010. (1-4) with a 6.82 ERA in 7 starts and 30.1 IP with Washington last season, Balester has walked 42 (3.4 BB/9) and K'd 70 (5.7 K/9) in his first 22 starts since debuting in July 2008 following 6 seasons in the Expos' and then the Nationals' system since his selection in the 4th Round of the '04 Draft. In that time, Balester's averaged 3.1 BB/9 with 6.7 K/9 while going (34-36) with a 4.07 ERA over 114 starts. Balester may have been asked about the rumored move to the pen one too many times this winter, as he responded when I asked him in an email interview that he'd, "...heard that many times," and was willing to make the move, though, as he said:

"I view myself as a starter and I think that is where I have the most value to the Nats, but that being said, if they thought that I was going to be better in the pen and I had the opportunity to help out the team at the Big league level then I would be fine with that. But yes, I still think I'm a starter."

• Yesterday it was right-hander Garrett Mock who was asked what he thought about a possible move (back?) to the bullpen in two-thousand-ten. MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr spoke to the soon-to-be 27-year-old Mock, who went (3-10) in 15 starts and 13 relief appearances with Washington last season, for an article entitled, "Does Mock want to be a starter?", in which the '04 D-Backs' 3rd Round pick was quoted stating:

"'I will do whatever it takes for the sake of the team. You ask me to pitch every day or come out of the bullpen, I just want to win. Whatever the team sees that is best. If we can win and I am in a different role then that is great. I was built to be a starter. I want to start every fifth day. I have dealt with shortfalls and I want to apply what I have learned. I want to go deeper into games and chew up some innings.'"

Mock's K'd 535 (7.8 K/9) and walked 172 (2.5 BB/9) over six seasons in Arizona and Washington's minor league systems, going (36-32) with a 4.08 ERA over 6 seasons and 107 starts before making a transition toward relief work in the last two seasons with the Nationals. Since his debut in DC in June 2008, Mock, who was (3-10) with a 5.62 ERA (4.28 FIP) in 2009, has K'd 118 (8.0 K/9) and walked 67 (4.6 BB/9) in 18 starts and 36 relief appearances with the Nationals.

?'s For The DC Faithful...

• Balester, Stammen and Mock, who's making the 2010 rotation?

• Which of the three would seem the best fit for the bullpen?

• Will Collin Balester start the season in Syracuse or DC?

• Do you think starters working their way out of the pen and into the rotation, as pitchers did not too long ago, is a good way to develop pitchers?

• If you had to pick one of the three to fill out the 2010 rotation which would it be?

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