Desperate Nats forced to remake bullpen

Desperate Nats forced to remake bullpen
May 21, 2013, 2:00 am
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As if an 8-0 drubbing at the hands of the Giants last night wasn't bad enough, the Nationals now find themselves forced into giving their bullpen a quick makeover just so they can have a few fresh arms for tonight's game in San Francisco.

Ryan Mattheus will be placed on the disabled list after breaking his right hand Sunday in San Diego, an injury that didn't occur during the Nationals' 13-4 loss to the Padres but afterward when the right-hander punched his locker in frustration. Mattheus' surprise injury, combined with the eight innings of work needed out of Zach Duke, Craig Stammen and Henry Rodriguez last night, leaves the Nationals with a serious dearth of healthy relievers at the moment.

So general manager Mike Rizzo will summon a pair of pitchers from Class AAA Syracuse: veteran right-hander Yunesky Maya and left-hander Fernando Abad. Each is expected to be added to the active roster before tonight's game at AT&T Park and be available to pitch if the need arises.

Such is life these days for a Nationals club that finds itself teetering on the brink, losers in five of its last seven games, hovering only one game over the .500 mark and suddenly dealing with a rash of injuries.

The Nationals already are without right fielder Jayson Werth (who is expected to miss at least two more weeks with a hamstring strain that won't go away), catcher Wilson Ramos (also out an extended period with a hamstring strain) and No. 5 starter Ross Detwiler (mild oblique strain).

At least those roster members hurt themselves on the field of play. Not so for Mattheus, who was so mad after giving up five runs during Sunday's blowout loss, he punched his locker at Petco Park and wound up breaking his pitching hand as a result.

Now the Nationals must cobble together a bullpen just to get through the rest of this 10-game road trip in one piece. Detwiler's injury forced Duke into a starting role, though he couldn't make it through four innings last night. Stammen wound up being used for 2 2/3 innings, with Rodriguez throwing 47 pitches over two laborious innings the day after he threw another 21 pitches in another blowout loss.

With none of those three arms available, the Nationals will seek help from two members of Syracuse's pitching staff.

Maya rejoins the big-league roster for the first time since 2011 despite a 1-4 record and 5.07 ERA in eight starts. The right-hander hasn't been particularly effective, but he hasn't pitched since Wednesday, so he at least offers a fresh arm.

Abad, meanwhile, offers the Nationals something they haven't had all season: a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen. The 27-year-old has allowed only two runs over 17 innings at Class AAA, striking out 12 while issuing only two walks. Given the Nationals' lack of a left-handed reliever aside from Duke, Abad could find himself sticking around for a while.

Needing to clear a spot for the extra bullpen arm, the Nationals will option outfielder Eury Perez to Syracuse. That move leaves the club with a 13-man pitching staff.

A move of desperation? Perhaps. But these have quickly become desperate times for the Nationals.