Zuckerman: Atilano Headed To DL

Zuckerman: Atilano Headed To DL
July 22, 2010, 5:21 pm
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Thursday, July 21, 2010 1:18pm

By Mark Zuckerman
CSNwashington.com

CINCINNATI -- Luis Atilano is headed to the disabled list with bone chips in his right elbow, leaving the Washington Nationals to decide between one of three left-handers to take his spot in the rotation and start Sunday in Milwaukee.

John Lannan, Ross Detwiler and Matt Chico are all candidates for promotion, though general manager Mike Rizzo wouldnt reveal Thursday afternoon which lefty is getting the call.

We want to bring up somebody who we can get a good, long look at, that gives us an opportunity every five days to win that game, Rizzo said.

Lannan, the Nationals Opening Day starter each of the last two seasons who was demoted to Class AA Harrisburg last month, is 1-2 with a 4.11 ERA in five minor-league starts. Hes due to pitch Thursday night in Portland, Maine, but could be scratched if called up to the majors.

Detwiler may have the strongest case of any candidate currently in the minors, having posted a 2.27 ERA in eight minor-league starts. But the former first-round draft pick, who missed the first half of the season following hip surgery, just tossed seven scoreless innings Wednesday for Harrisburg and thus would have to start on short rest for the Nationals on Sunday.

Chico, who made one spot start for Washington in April, is 6-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 18 combined minor-league starts. He hasnt allowed a run in his last 14 innings, having last pitched for Class AAA Syracuse on Sunday.

The rotation spot became available after Atilano complained of elbow discomfort following his ragged start Tuesday night against the Cincinnati Reds, in which he allowed five runs over four innings. It was the rookies fourth straight poor outing, including a spot start for Syracuse during the All-Star break, and he admitted his elbow hadnt felt right throughout that stretch.

An MRI taken in Cincinnati revealed bone chips in the elbow. Atilano, who had Tommy John surgery on the same elbow in 2006, will receive a cortisone shot and be shut down for several days. Hell attempt to throw off a bullpen mound in Washington next week. If he feels OK, hell attempt to rejoin the rotation and pitch out the season, though hell need surgery eventually to remove the chips. If he has the surgery now, he wont have enough time to return this season.

If he can pitch and he can perform and its not going to do any more damage, well let him rehab and continue pitching throughout the season, and then after the season get the surgery done, Rizzo said. And, of course, if he doesnt respond positively, then hell get it done as soon as we see he cant perform.

Mark Zuckerman covered the Nationals for The Washington Times from 2005-09. In addition to regular work this season for CSNwashington.com, he also covers the team at www.natsinsider.com. Email Mark at zuckerman12@gmail.com.