Who starts for the Nats on Sunday?

Who starts for the Nats on Sunday?
September 20, 2012, 3:06 pm
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Perhaps the most significant domino effect of yesterday's doubleheader against the Dodgers is the fact the Nationals will need to find a fill-in starter for Sunday's game against the Brewers.

Not wanting to bring back either Jordan Zimmermann or John Lannan on short rest, manager Davey Johnson has said he'll use someone out of his bullpen, almost certainly a right-hander (to combat Milwaukee's right-handed-heavy lineup).

The two prime candidates, then, are Chien-Ming Wang and Craig Stammen, creating a bit of a dilemma for Johnson.

Wang, obviously, has more experience as a starter, both over his career and over this season. But the veteran has been plagued by injuries and until last night hadn't appeared in any game at any level since a 2-inning, Sept. 1 rehab start for Class AA Harrisburg.

Summoned out of the bullpen last night when Lannan couldn't complete the fourth inning, Wang immediately uncorked a run-scoring wild pitch, then gave up a scorched grounder to third base that wound up allowing another run to score (though the run shouldn't have counted after umpire Alan Porter missed the fact Ryan Zimmerman tagged baserunner Adrian Gonzalez before Matt Kemp crossed the plate).

Wang did settle down after that and tossed two more scoreless innings, but was that enough to convince the Nationals he's ready to start a meaningful, late-September game against a potent lineup?

That uncertainty perhaps makes Stammen a stronger candidate to get the assignment. The right-hander has pitched well all season out of the bullpen, whether serving as a long reliever or a setup man. He does have starting experience -- 38 games in the big leagues -- but the last one of them came in 2010.

Johnson hadn't approached Stammen about the possibility as of yesterday afternoon, but when asked, the 28-year-old said he's perfectly willing to accept the challenge.

"I always said I'd do whatever they ask me to do," he said. "So I guess that's part of the job description."

Stammen has thrown 40 or more pitches only twice this year, so there's some question how deep he could go if asked to start.

"In my head, I think I could throw as many as I wanted to throw," he said. "I don't know what my body will feel. I think I could go a while. I definitely would try to get through five (innings). There's no use starting if you can't get through five, just as a personal pride thing."

We may find out on Sunday.