With all the winning the Nats have been doing lately, it's easy to forget they still aren't full strength. Ross Detwiler, their fifth starter, has been on the disabled list since July 7 with a lower back strain and now Stephen Strasburg, their ace, is on the mend.
Both starters are working their way back and both are expected to return this season. Strasburg rested on Saturday, a day after he was scratched with forearm tightness, and Detwiler threw a bullpen session.
Davey Johnson said Strasburg will throw on Sunday and go from there. He is working towards a Sept. 19 return as the Nats host the Marlins.
"He's going to start playing catch tomorrow," Johnson said. "He'll then throw his next 'pen on the 16th. We'll see how he is playing catch, see how the meds are working."
Johnson hadn't heard a report about Detwiler on Saturday afternoon and said the team will know more about his status after 24 hours. If all goes well he should set up to throw another bullpen in two days and then be ready to face live hitters.
Johnson hopes Detwiler can still help the team this year, likely in a relief role.
"There's time for him to still pitch out of the 'pen, but it just all depends on how all the steps along the way go," Johnson said. "I know that he wants to come back to pitch. If he doesn't he will go to winter ball or to the instructional league to pitch."
Even if Detwiler does return by the end of the Nats' season, Johnson would like to see the lefty continue pitching to work towards next season. He doesn't think a few outings would be enough after just 13 starts thus far this season.
"For me I don't think it's a big enough sample, but that's entirely up to McCatty and Rizzo," he said. "I would want to be sure that he's going to hold up for next year and not being in a situation like he was this year, not having much starting pitching. There should be some guys coming up closer to pitching up here probably the middle of next year. But that's a key guy."
Detwiler has had an inconsistent season, largely due to injuries. Through 13 starts this year he is 2-7 with a 4.04 ERA.
Tyler Moore starts at first
Johnson had Tyler Moore start at first base against Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday as he wants to see the second year player face more lefty pitching. Moore has 94 plate appearances against righties this year and 70 against left-handers.
Moore is also faring much better against right-handed pitching, batting .256 compared to .185 against southpaws. Johnson thinks simply seeing them more will help Moore improve.
"Most of his success has been against right-handers. A lot of that is he just hasn't seen a lot of left-handed pitching," Johnson said. "With the ball breaking into you have to turn on it and pull it. That's a very difficult pitch to take and pull the other way. With a right-hander it's easier to go the other way. You have to make adjustments, but he's certainly smart."