In a word: I have no idea.
While the rest of Nats nation talks about the fallout of Jayson Werth‘s broken wrist (most of this post was written before last night’s debacle), I had been thinking about this topic: when Chien-Ming Wang exhausts his 30 day rehab assignment, what in the world is this team going to do with him?
If I’m correct about rehab assignment rules while on the 15-day DL, players have 30 days once they appear in a minor league game. Wang’s first ML appearance was in Potomac on Apr 29th, and then he pitched 6 innings on Friday night in Hagerstown. As has been reported in both local media and national, Wang’s 6 inning stint represented a big step forward in the pitcher’s ability to return to the majors. Now, perhaps this isn’t a problem for another month or so, but both these reports seemed to indicate that Wang was “nearly ready” to return to the majors. Problem is, the Nationals really don’t have anywhere to put him.
As everyone knows, the Nats currently have the best pitching staff in baseball by most statistical measures. We’ve rocketed out to an 18-10 start, winning 8 of our 9 series so far, on the strength of starting pitching. And there’s no logical starter that we should replace right now. Strasburg just won NL pitcher of the month, Gonzalez is making all the “Nats paid too much” pundits eat their words thus far with a stellar start, Zimmermann is allowing a miniscule .992 WHIP right now (even after counting for May 6th inflation), and Detwiler is pitching better than any of them now to little fan fare, with a 3-1, 1.59 era, .988 whip and a staff-best 241 ERA+. Arguably the “worst” of our starters is also our most expensive: Edwin Jackson. Of course, the word “worst” is only understood in context: if it weren’t for one first inning meltdown on April 19th, Jackson’s ERA would be 2.34 instead of its current 3.69.
If you’re Davey Johnson, you don’t possibly dare disrupt the existing rotation do you? I wouldn’t. But, Wang needs to go somewhere. Can you put him in the bullpen? Doubtful; he’s a starter coming off a shoulder injury and probably needs to be on a set schedule of throwing. I doubt he’s able to jump up and be ready to enter a high-leverage reliever situation with 8 pitches to get ready. Do you send Detwiler to the pen? He’s the least experienced of the 5 starters we have; the other 4 have long since established their spots. Do you move Jackson to the bullpen? That’d make for an awful expensive middle reliever. Wang has no options (nor does Detwiler or Gorzelanny for that matter, logical choices to move up or down to make way), so they all have to find room on the active roster. I don’t think Wang is trade-bait; who would give up anything other than a marginal prospect for him based on his injury past?
Honestly, I’m expecting some 15-day DL hijinks to ensue if/when the situation comes to loggerheads.