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Wish we could say we never, ever saw this one coming: according to the Post, the Nats are "[k]eeping an eye" on reliever Danny Graves, who was designated for assignment by the Indians, was long-ago a Jim Bowden acquisition, and was desired by Bowden after a release by the Reds last season:

Graves could become particularly enticing -- despite his 5.79 ERA in 13 appearances for the Indians -- if lefty Joey Eischen continues to struggle. Eischen's ERA is 10.45 in 16 appearances, and opponents are hitting .326 against him.

Just because a team seeks to replace a pitcher who is performing horribly, this is not an ethical or moral constraint on the team to seek out pitchers who actually can perform well. Not that beggars can be choosers all too often . . .

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The same article discusses the effect of losing Luis Ayala to elbow problems. Ayala is obviously a huge loss, and Frank Robinson (though he doesn't reveal his methodology) quantifies Ayala's absence as the source of five or six extra losses this season.

Articles like this never seem to link the struggles in the starting rotation with the struggles in the bullpen, and I can't quite figure out why. Though the figure is obviously variable, Nats' starters have averaged as much as an out fewer per appearance than the National League average---which, of course, adds up. (The gap is currently 0.12 outs per start, a third of an out, although the Nats' averages have been pretty constant for a number of weeks.)

As for Ayala, he was injured during the World Baseball Classic, but one cannot really say if he would have resembled the Ayala of the first half of 2005. The Ayala of August and September of '05 was practically non-existent, thanks to . . . elbow problems.

The article also notes that Nationals Farm Authority-favorite Shawn Hill might get a call-up in the near future. (Okay, the Post article doesn't actually identify Hill as an NFA-fave. But you know what I mean.) Jason Bergmann is not eligible to hop on the DC-NO shuttle for about ten days.)