Now that Stephen Strasburg's major league debut is official and approaching quickly, the Nats will have to make the (tough) choice of which starter gets demoted, either to the bullpen or to Syracuse. Many people believe that one of the current starters will get moved to the bullpen and Tyler Walker will get moved to Syracuse (or DFA'd if he doesn't have any options left).
Jim Riggleman declined to make a statement on the issue at tonight's postgame press conference. When asked whether Luis Atilano had secured a spot in the rotation even after Strasburg's arrival, Riggleman said that he couldn't comment because the decision will affect other people. If Atilano is declared "safe" as a member of the rotation, then that means one of the other pitchers is at risk.
So who do you think it will be? Craig Stammen may be the most likely candidate. He has the highest ERA by far of the current starters, 5.88, compared to Atilano's 4.24 and John Lannan's 4.79. Lannan was once considered to be the ace of the staff (largely by default) but he had a rough start to the season. He seems to be improving and it's unlikely that he would get moved to the bullpen. Livan Hernandez has been one of the biggest surprises of the year. Even though he hasn't won a game in over a month, he has pitched well enough to win in almost all of his starts. His ERA is still at an excellent 2.22. He has to be considered as the current de facto ace of the Nationals staff so he is definitely staying.
J.D. Martin is a recent addition to the staff, because of the injuries to other pitchers. He has done very well in his two chances: 2.31 ERA, 9 K's and just 1 BB over 11 2/3 innings. Could he be at risk of heading to the bullpen because of his junior status? You would think that the team would want to stick with him and see if he can develop the way that Atilano has.
So if Hernandez and Lannan are locks for their slots and Atilano and Martin continue to get opportunities to impress the front office, then Stammen is the odd man out. The organization believes he has a bright future but he just hasn't been that impressive in 2010. In addition to his 5.88 ERA, opponents are hitting .304 off of him.
There will be other decisions to make over the summer when Olsen, Marquis, Wang and Zimmermann are ready to return. Obviously a lot of hard decisions will have to be made. If Atilano, Martin and Strasburg prove capable enough, then Olsen and Marquis could get traded, either this year or in the offseason. But the question for now is who loses out in the next two or three days? I think it has to be Stammen based on the numbers and the performances. And he should be moved to the bullpen while Tyler Walker is moved off of the roster completely. Who do you think should be moved out of the rotation?