When Luis Atliano came up to the Majors this year, not that much was expected of him. He had pitched well in AAA, but he wasn’t a real prospect. Yet his first two starts looked good, and after 9 GS he was 5-2 with a 4.24 ERA. Not bad, but not meant to last. In those 51 innings he had only walked 22, which isn’t bad, expect that he had also struck out only 22. The ratio was a hint, as was his 6% of strikes from swinging. People didn’t miss his pitches.

Since that 9th start, things have really tailed off for him. He’s gone 1-5 (the team has gone 1-6), his ERA has been 6.49 in the last 7 games, and while his K/BB ratio has improved to 18/10, its because people are swinging and hitting him more. The opposition has gotten 44 hits in only 34 2/3 IP off of him in that time, and over the whole season, his ERA has gone up to 5.15, rising in all but 2 of his last 7 starts, those two against Baltimore and Kansas City.

It may be time to find someone else to fill Atilano’s role, at least for the moment. This isn’t to say he can’t be a decent 5th starter, or find a constructive role in the bullpen, but that right now it appears his starts are set up to be losses. So if they do make a switch, is there anybody out there to take his place? There sure is, and you’ve probably heard of a few of them:

Scott Olsen and Ross Detwiler are in the midst of rehab. Olsen won’t be ready for a month, Detwiler is concentrating on building up arm strength as well, and has looked good. Ross has made 6 starts in AA Harrisburg, where he’s maxed out at 5 IP in his last two. In those 6, he’s got a 3.16 ERA struck out 24 and only walked 6 in 25 2/3 innings. He’s looking good, but he’s going to come up slowly. Supposed rotation-stabilizer Jason Marquis, who I’m not holding my breath on, isn’t expected back for at least a month.

On to the Guys Who Might Pitch

Matt Chico – Oh yeah, the promising pitcher from 2007 came up and did fairly well in one spot start this year. In the minors he plowed through AA with a 3.12 ERA in 5 starts easily enough, so was moved up to AAA. There, he’s gone 5-4 with a 3.55 ERA and in 71 IP he’s got a K/BB ratio of 41/24. In his last 10 starts his ERA is 3.00, and while he’s mixed some stinkers in, he’s had 6 starts giving up 1 run or fewer, and hasn’t given one up in his last 2 starts, each going 7 innings.

Shairon Martis – He’s compiled a 3.82 ERA pitched in AAA this year, but like Chico it’s his last 10 that stand out: A 2.90 ERA, 7/10 Quality Starts and no games giving up more than 3 ER. The problem is, he’s not giving up enough grounders (0.75 GO/AO) considering he still doesn’t strike guys out. In 101 1/3 IP, he’s walked 37 and K’d 64. A decent ratio for sure, but not exactly promising of great things to come. Still, you might forget, since he was on the Nats in 2008, that he’s still only 23 years old.

Jeff Mandel – He’s split time between Harrisburg, where he compiled a 3.83 ERA, and Syracuse, where he’s got a 4.80 this year. He’s had a rougher time of late, but he’s striking out more and walking less than the previous two guys, so maybe he’s got a shot to join the rotation as well. It’s probably more of a longshot, though.

Tom Milone – A 23 year old from AA, he’s pitched quite well this season, earned a 6-5 record with a 3.24 ERA. More impressive are his peripherals, he’s pitched 105 2/3 innings and struck out 90 while only walking 20. Also nice are his ERAs by month: 4.19, 3.27, 2.95, and 2.70 from April to July. Will they try him out in the majors? If not, isn’t it time to promote him to Syracuse?

Aaron Thompson – The guy the got for Nick Johnson is at least playing, which is more than can be said for Johnson, but Thompson isn’t exactly playing well. The former first round pick is sitting on a 5.24 ERA in AA this year, with not much improvement as the year’s progressed. 4 of his last 6 starts were QS, although only 2 were of the less-than-3-run variety (both were 0 ER games). He does have his moments, like yesterday’s start where he went 6 2/3, struck out 7, walked only 1, allowed only 3 hits and didn’t give up a run. The problem with him has been consistency, it’s just too elusive for the Nats to trust him.

Of all of those names, it seems to me that Chico is the likely guy, but it’d be interesting to see what Martis can do in a couple of starts. Milone is another possibility, depending on the schedule

A Couple More Things

Josh Wilkie, while not a starter, is a strong candidate for the bullpen. Not next year, but now. He’s put together quite a season this year, with a 1.61 ERAin 44 2/3 IP, with 16 BB and 35 K. If the Nats are so worried about what trading Capps would do to the bullpen, how about Wilkie taking Storen’s role and giving the other guys a chance to finish games.

Collin Balester, the mustachioed one is having a rough go of it this year, but he’s been shifted to bullpen and has seen more success there. In terms of personality, he’s one of my favorites, so I hope his recent success (4.05 ERA in his last 10 appearances as opposed to a 7.32 for the whole year) translates into a reliable bullpen arm.

All the Way From Cuba

The Nats have allegedly signed international pitcher Yuniesky Maya. He aint spot starting, I’m pretty sure of that, but I’ll get something about him in the next day or two, while reports trickle in. Meanwhile, you should be thinking of nicknames (if he’s a closer, I shall call him the Mayan Rivera. If he’s not, perhaps his start schedule should be referred to as the Mayan calendar).

By Charlie