Nationals

Quick Links

Without Strasburg, Nats turn to Jackson for Game 3

201210091320480136525-p2.jpeg

Without Strasburg, Nats turn to Jackson for Game 3

WASHINGTON (AP) Stephen Strasburg joined his teammates for an off-day workout at Nationals Park on Tuesday, red socks pulled nearly up to his knees while tossing baseballs in the outfield a day before the first postseason game in the nation's capital in 79 years.

That's about the extent of activity these days for Strasburg as the Washington Nationals carry on without their acknowledged ace, shut down a month ago.

The NL East champions' opponent right now, the St. Louis Cardinals, are very much counting on their returning ace, Chris Carpenter, who has pitched only 17 innings all year. Carpenter will be on the mound Wednesday afternoon for Game 3 of the NL division series, facing Washington's Edwin Jackson. The best-of-five series is tied at 1.

The 37-year-old Carpenter had surgery in July for a nerve problem that left his throwing arm and much of the right side of his body numb. He came back on Sept. 21, and is 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA in three starts.

``Everybody knows that it wasn't supposed to happen,'' Carpenter said about the prospect of pitching at all in 2012. ``I put a lot of work into it, to hopefully have this opportunity. I didn't know if I was going to have this opportunity or not - and fortunately, I do.''

He is 9-2 with a 3.05 ERA in the postseason for his career.

That includes going 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA last year while helping St. Louis win the World Series; he beat the Texas Rangers in Game 7 for the title.

``Him winning the World Series last year or whenever isn't going to do anything for him tomorrow,'' Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. ``He's a great pitcher, and nobody's taking anything away from him in that aspect, but tomorrow we're going to go out there with our plan and try and do what we've done all year.''

Which was good enough to own the best record in the major leagues at 98-64.

Strasburg played a key role up until his final start, a three-inning outing on Sept. 7. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA with 197 strikeouts in 159 1-3 innings.

General manager Mike Rizzo made quite clear all season that his prized right-hander's innings would be limited in his first full season back from Sept. 3, 2010, reconstructive elbow surgery.

``I bet the kid has to be going crazy, being in the situation where he is,'' said Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran, who hit two of his team's four homers Monday in Game 2. ``He pitched all regular season, and right now he's not available for them.''

Unable to put Strasburg on the mound now, the Nationals used playoff rookies Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann in Games 1 and 2.

``The starting pitching, we showed a little inexperience there,'' manager Davey Johnson said. ``I mean, not going right after hitters - and also not pitching.''

Washington now needs to rebound from that 12-4 loss in Game 2 at St. Louis, although the Nationals prefer to focus on having taken one of their two road games at the outset of the series.

Going up against Carpenter will be his former teammate Jackson, the only starting pitcher on Washington's roster who ever had participated in a playoff game before this season. He was a member of the Cardinals' championship club in 2011, and his overall postseason mark is 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA.

He went 10-11 this season, but Washington's record in Jackson's starts was only 12-19.

``It's high expectations on me. I have high expectations on myself, as well,'' the right-hander said. ``This is one of those games where you go out and you try to lead by example.''

That's certainly the sort of thing the Cardinals expect from Carpenter, who won the 2005 Cy Young Award and helped St. Louis win a title the following year.

His mere presence on the diamond Wednesday is a big deal to his teammates.

``I saw that first hand, all the time he spent in the training room and weight room and getting back to the point, and you can't help but feed off that,'' said Cardinals center field John Jay, who made a spectacular wall-crashing catch in Game 2. ``Especially a guy (who's) been there before. It would have been easy for him, as someone who has two rings and he's made his money in this game, to say `You know what? I'll be back next year.' But he wanted to be out there for us.''

Strasburg would certainly prefer to still be pitching for Washington.

But Rizzo said Tuesday ``there's no sense of thinking'' about that possibility at this point.

``We love the pitching staff we have. It's the best pitching staff in major league baseball, with and without Stephen,'' Rizzo continued, standing near the red-white-and-blue postseason logo painted on his ballpark's grass for the first time, ``and these are the guys that we have in the playoff series, and we're going to go forward with them.''

---

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Quick Links

Ryan Zimmerman’s ailing foot returns him to the injured list

ryan-zimmerman-usat1.jpg
USA Today

Ryan Zimmerman’s ailing foot returns him to the injured list

WASHINGTON -- Ryan Zimmerman is on the injured list. Again.

Zimmerman was placed on the 10-day injured list Monday because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot, which also caused him to be on the injured list earlier this season from April 28 to June 27.

Outfielder Andrew Stevenson was called up to take Zimmerman’s spot on the roster. In a separate move, veteran reliever Michael Blazek was summoned from Triple-A Fresno on Monday. Reliever Kyle McGowin was sent to Double-A Harrisburg.

Zimmerman, who turns 35 years old Sept. 28, has played just 33 games this season. He played 85 games last season. The Nationals are hopeful this “partial rupture” could go away quickly. The bigger picture view is what this means for Zimmerman next year.

The team holds an $18 million option on him. It will be declined. Zimmerman knew at the beginning of the season his health would be key to every aspect of his future, If he was healthy, he thought he could still play well. He hit .333 in July, proving that idea to be true. But, he has not remained healthy.

From the start of the year, the Nationals and Zimmerman have said they hope to work something out if the contract option is not picked up. Zimmerman joined the organization in 2005. He doesn’t seem inclined to go elsewhere. 

An oblique injury stalled Zimmerman last year. This year, his foot won’t cooperate. Zimmerman could come off the injured list Aug. 1. If he does, and plays every game the rest of the season, he would max out at 87 games played. He would be provided days off when he returns, so Zimmerman is almost assured of playing fewer games this season than last.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Nationals' ace Max Scherzer on the cusp of a return

Nationals' ace Max Scherzer on the cusp of a return

WASHINGTON -- Everything looked normal Monday: Max Scherzer in full uniform went to right field for his warmup throws, then walked into the Nationals’ bullpen for a full pitching session. He briefly lingered to talk it over with the regular denizens of the bullpen before exiting through the back entrance and looping back to the clubhouse.

It went well. He feels good. The expectation is he will start a game “at the end of the week,” according to Davey Martinez. Scherzer declined to put a projection forth. He’s just pleased to feel well. 

“I’m getting through the ball,” Scherzer said. “I feel great. I feel 100 percent. The ball is coming out 100 percent. It’s just a matter of making sure I got all of the feel for all the executions.”

Per usual, The Next Day is at issue. Scherzer expects no problems because he threw from a mound Saturday and felt “nothing” Sunday. If he comes in Tuesday feeling good, everything should be set for possibly Thursday to return and wrap a four-game series with Colorado. 

Scherzer thought he could pitch Sunday in Atlanta. He suggested as much to Martinez and others. Mike Rizzo, Martinez and team medical staff told him no.  

“[I asked], but it wouldn’t have been smart,” Scherzer said. “You need to see me off the mound. Can’t take that chance. I always want to pitch. If this was Sept. 28, I think, yeah, they would have let me go. But when you have so much season left. You can’t take that risk. So...I get it. If I ever think I can pitch, I’m always going to want to pitch. That’s why the ball’s in the trainer’s court, the ball’s in Rizzo’s court, the ball’s in Dr. [Robin] West’s court. They have to make that call. They didn’t make that call. I completely get why.”

A cortisone shot received seven days ago has proven effective. As has advice from former teammate Shawn Kelley, who had the same injury -- inflammation of his bursa sac below his right scapula -- three days before Scherzer. They talked, the shot was recommended and it helped right on time.

Scherzer said he has an idea what caused the issue, but chose not to disclose it. Though, he was adamant it has nothing to do with his workload this season.

Despite not pitching since July 6, Scherzer still leads the National League in strikeouts. He remains a top-tier Cy Young candidate. He also is desperately needed by a Nationals team which suddenly has a bit of disarray percolating in their rotation.

Assuming Scherzer is ready to return, the Nationals need to sort out the fifth spot in their rotation. Erick Fedde was scheduled to pitch Monday before the game was postponed by Major League Baseball because of inclement weather a day after Joe Ross put together a reasonable start in Atlanta. Austin Voth (right biceps tendinitis) remains on the 10-day injured list and is building strength in his arm. He expected to throw Monday.

The next two days are mostly lined up: Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin will pitch. Fedde could pitch the 1:05 p.m. start of Wednesday's split day-night doubleheader. If Scherzer pitches Thursday, Anibal Sanchez would be bumped to Friday to open the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Nationals could pitch Scherzer on Friday -- keeping Sanchez on turn -- and still have him to close the three-game series against Atlanta next week.

"[Tuesday] will be a big day,” Martinez said. “If Max comes in and says he has no issues, we’ll go from there.”

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: