For most of the Nationals’ existence, the September call-ups have represented the hope of better things to come, especially in the wake of last-place finishes in five of their first six seasons. Most years, it was an audition for making the club the next spring — John Lannan in 2007, Shairon Martis in 2008, Ian Desmond in 2009, Wilson Ramos in 2010, Steve Lombardozzi in 2011*, etc.
*>Honorable mention to Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock, too, since their September showcase helped make the pickup of Gio Gonzalez possible
Well, things have changed. The better things have come. And thus, the endgame has changed.
The “five or six” guys that have been promised to play in DC this September aren’t necessarily auditioning — they’re gonna be asked to add depth to the bench, pinch hit, perhaps mop up in the ‘pen. Starting assignments, with a couple of notable exceptions, aren’t terribly likely.
Who they gonna call? Well, let’s take a look:
John Lannan — Cheap and easy, just the way we like… to make predictions. Back-to-back shutouts is just gravy. And of course getting the nod the past two times the parent club has needed a pitcher for a doubleheader makes this an easy call. He’s expected to replace Stephen Strasburg in the big-club rotation.
Sandy Leon — A third catcher is de rigeur for contenders in September. A foundering backup (Jesus Flores) may be also be served notice, particularly when this Venezuelan backstop has a 46% CS rate and can switch-hit. I’d expect him to get at least a start per week, perhaps more if the team can clinch before the final weekend.
Eury Perez — As noted in the comments, Perez was nearly a given to get a look as a defensive replacement and a pinch-runner; hitting safely in 37 of 40 games at AAA and doubling his walk rate might actually garner him some starts.
Corey Brown — Brown is still on the 40-man and can serve many of the same functions as Perez, but with a bit more pop and adds another lefthanded bat off the bench.
Carlos Rivero — Working against Rivero is the possibility that
ineffective but experienced veteran Mark DeRosa will get activated instead, but like Brown, he’s on the 40-man and as we know, Rizzo makes 40-man moves less often than he goes to the barber. Remember that before mentioning Zach Walters in the comments.
Mike MacDougal — That “said,” if ever there was a guy that Rizzo would add then jettison, it’s Mike MacDougal — veteran reliever who can work in a variety of situations, but mostly he’d be asked to spell a bullpen that’s been ridden hard all season long. This is purely a gut pick.
• Chris Marrero
• Yunesky Maya
• Jhonatan Solano
All three are on the 40-man but have big strikes against them. Marrero has been battling a bum hamstring and hasn’t exactly lit it up since returning to Syracuse two weeks ago. Maya isn’t likely to start, thus his best role is long relief, which doesn’t get the kind of work it used to get in DC these days. Solano is rehabbing from an injury and isn’t going to be chosen unless Leon gets hurt.
Not Gonna Happen
• Anthony Rendon
• Christian Garcia
• Ryan Perry
• Chien-Ming Wang
When Rendon got the call to Harrisburg two weeks ago, there was breathless typing about him getting a look this September. Since then, nearly every reputable source outside of the Natmosphere has dismissed that as talk-radio blather. Christian Garcia seemed like the “mystery guy” that manager Davey Johnson alluded to in some pressers, but his surprise invite to the AFL seems to take him off the table. Likewise for Ryan Perry
And Wang? Well, my favorite J-school professor taught me that it’s always good to end a column with a joke, and the idea of a has-been that can’t get AA batters out being sent up is pretty damn laughable.