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Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo thinks Nats can cobble together fifth spot in the rotation...

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If Joe Ross or Erick Fedde can’t get it going and claim the fifth spot in the Nationals’ rotation, will Wil Crowe get a shot at some point? And will Max Scherzer be able to return from the Injured List sooner than later?

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Talking to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies hours before the trade deadline on Tuesday, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said he there was enough depth in the organization to fill out the back end of Washington’s rotation, so he didn’t think there was a need to pursue a trade to bolster the starting staff.

“I look at it his way,” Rizzo explained, “we’ve got our big four, they’re as good or better than anybody in the league and our fifth starter has been somebody from our organization that gives us depth, so we go into the season with [Jeremy] Hellickson, and Joe Ross, and Erick Fedde, and Austin Voth, we’ve got Wil Crowe down in the farm system. We feel that we can cobble together a fifth starter role that can help us compete. We think we’ve done that.”

Hellickson and Voth are injured, of course, though Hellickson has thrown sim games down in Florida and Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said recently that if he continues to progress it is possible he could return to the rotation at some point in the relatively-near future, after a rehab assignment that builds him back up.

“I hope he continues to progress and get better,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman on Wednesday.

“When we started the season he (was) our fifth starter so if he could come back that would be great.”

Fedde has a 4.98 ERA, a 5.85 FIP, 21 walks (4.36 BB/9), 23 Ks (4.78 K/9), and a .288/.374/.479 line against in 43 13 IP as a starter this season.

Ross has made just one start in the majors after working out of the bullpen earlier this year, and he’s going to get another start tonight in Arizona, but he has struggled overall in his first full season back following Tommy John surgery.

Martinez talked about solidifying the back end of the rotation after Fedde gave up nine hits, four walks, and nine earned runs in just 3 23 IP last time out against Atlanta, though he’d put up a 3.40 ERA in eight starts in the majors before that outing.

Fedde and Ross, he said, need to improve.

“With Voth being injured, one of these two guys got to step up,” the manager said.

“They have to step up. I’ve said it before. We feel like they belong here, but they’ve got to start making pitches and keeping us in the ballgame.”

“The fifth starter — our fifth starter ERA, from the games that are started without our big four is about 5.10, that’s somewhere in the middle of the fifth starters in the league,” Rizzo said on Wednesday, “... so it’s not as terrible as it looked last night, Fedde had a bad night, didn’t attack the zone and he needs to get better, but we trust Ross and Fedde and Voth.

“These guys were big prospects when they were prospects, they’ve shown flashes of being very effective major league pitchers. Don’t forget, Fedde threw a two-or-three hitter, and a one-run game, a six-inning start against the Orioles, he gave up one run against the Rockies the start before this one, so you kind of chalk it up to they have to get better and they have to perform better, there’s no doubt about.”

If they don’t, will Crowe get an opportunity at some point this season?

The Nats’ 24-year-old, 2017 2nd Round pick put up a 3.87 ERA, a 3.16 FIP, 22 BBs (2.08 BB/9), and 89 Ks (8.40 K/9) in 95 13 IP at Double-A Harrisburg before he was promoted to Triple-A Fresno, where he’s got a 3.46 ERA, a 3.37 FIP, 11 walks (3.81 BB/9), and 22 Ks (7.62 K/9) in 26 innings.

All the talk about a fifth starter does, of course, presupposes that Max Scherzer is going to be able to come off the Injured List shortly and give the Nationals their top four down the stretch.

Rizzo talked about the plan for the Nationals’ 35-year-old ace on Wednesday too.

“We’re going to take it easy with Max,” he said.

“We’re going to try to keep our head above water until we get this guy right. We’re going to get him right before he pitches. He felt really good yesterday, so we’re optimistic that it’s not going to be a long-term thing. He’s eligible to come off I think Monday in San Francisco.

“I’m not sure if that will work and if that will happen, but if it does, he’s going to certainly be on a shorter pitch count than he’s been on, because we’re going to have to work him back into getting back to his 110-115 pitches like he normally is, but we’re optimistic that he’s going to do well and he’s going to be a factor for us in the near future.”

Scherzer told 106.7 the FAN’s Grant and Danny he thinks he’ll be able to return around the time he’s eligible to come off the IL (August 5th).

If Scherzer’s able to return to the rotation, and the Nationals feel they’re able to cobble together that fifth spot, it does make sense that they didn’t feel the need to go after another starter at the deadline...