After another throwing session cut short due to a stiff back, Ross Detwiler appears to be several weeks away from returning to the Nationals rotation, leaving the club in a short-term bind that could become a long-term bind if this injury lingers.
Detwiler tried to throw off a bullpen mound this afternoon but cut the session short after about 25 pitches when his back stiffened up again.
"He's still not quite right," manager Davey Johnson said. "So he's going to have to wait a couple of days before trying to get back up on the mound."
The Nationals originally hoped to have Detwiler (who has been on the disabled list since July 4) back for Tuesday night's game against the Pirates, letting him slide into the No. 5 slot in their rotation coming out of the All-Star break. Once it became clear he wouldn't be ready in time for that, the Nationals adjusted their plan to have the left-hander start one of the games in Friday's doubleheader against the Mets.
But that option now is out of the question, according to Johnson.
"In talking to [pitching coach Steve] McCatty, he's not getting full extension, finishing his pitches," the manager said. "He's going to probably need to do at least a couple more 'pens here, and he still hasn't been able to do a whole lot of running, which he usually does a lot. So I think it's definitely no chance for him to pitch on Friday."
At this point, it appears Detwiler needs another week of throwing before heading on a minor-league rehab assignment. That would push his return to the Nationals' rotation until at least August 1.
In the short-term, the Nationals will likely use long reliever Ross Ohlendorf as one of the starters in Friday's doubleheader. In the long-term, they would have to decide between Ohlendorf and rookie right-hander Taylor Jordan, who has posted a 3.32 ERA in four starts but is expected to be shut down at some point before season's end due to a club-imposed innings limit in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.
Given all that, plus Dan Haren's season-long struggles, the Nationals could find themselves in need of another starter before the July 31 trade deadline.
Johnson, though, continues to downplay the possibility of a deal.
"We've got young Taylor Jordan in the rotation," the manager said. "He's thrown the ball pretty good. He's learning how to pitch up here. I don't think, no matter what Ross' situation is, we would be in a position to go get somebody for a couple months and give up some good prospects."