Planning in baseball is like planning in war: no matter how good you strategize, things never turn out the way you expected.Â So it is with the Nats’ starting rotation.Â The off-season speculators shaped a starting five that included two no-brainers (Marquis and Lannan) withÂ three or four questions.Â But the fill-in-the-blankÂ wunderkinds of the press always seemed to skip Craig Stammen. They weren’t the only ones. Let me see, there was Marquis, Lannan, Olsen, Hernandez and Mock; or Marquis, Lannan, Olsen, Martin and Mock (an “m-heavy” rotation) — oh, and there was even Marquis, Lannan,Â Olsen, Detwiler and Wang. But no matter what the permutations there wasÂ rarely (although, some few noticed),Â any mention ofÂ Craig Stammen. Â But the 6-3, 200 pound righty (it appears) has won a place in the Nationals’ starting rotation after a solid Florida Spring and a little attention. He’s now on the radar — and then some. Â
Granted, there’s not much to look at: while Stammen showed flashes of maturity in the forgettable 2009 campaign, his let’s-not-talk-about-it sore elbow and his 4-7 5.11 numbers were nothing to brag about. Justifiably (perhaps) Nats’ fans were more excited about the arrival of “the answer” and focused on Jordan Zimmermann’s Tommy John surgery. Then too, it didn’t help that Stammen arrived in Washington virtually unannounced — one of a bevy of slump-shouldered pitchers that included Detwiler, Mock, Balester, Martis, Zimmermann,Â Martin and Mock. That he waited in line behind the likes of the forgettable and embarrassing Daniel Cabrera was to be expected: this was the Bowden era, a period of time in our short historyÂ now empillared in the dictionary next to the word “nightmare.”
But Craig Stammen has not been a secret to those who have watched him. The more he’s pitched the more attention he’s earned. Despite last year’s numbers, there seemed to be a sense in the Nationals’ front office that the Ohio native could turn into something special. Stammen’s strike out numbers with the Savannah Sand Gnats of the Sally League were good, thoughÂ (as is common with the Buckeye), not quite heart-stopping: he struck out 109 in 143 innings.Â With a little more speed he-coulda-really-been-something. Even so, he worked his way up — to Potomac and Harrisburg and Syracuse. His arrival in Washington, therefore, was hardly a triumph. And yet … yet, here he is, a pitcher who is now slotted for the fourth (or even third) slot in the starting rotation and (at least thus far) a Nationals’ success; proof positive that the organization can develop pitchers.
That might be a pretty good front four: Strasburg, Marquis, Lannan andÂ StammenÂ — even if we have to wait for June to see it.Â