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Nationals ready for some reinforcements

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

Lannan, extra catcher among those expected

The struggling Nationals will add some reinforcements when rosters expand Saturday.

Washington's biggest need will be a starting pitcher to replace Stephen Strasburg when he is shut down. The exact date remains a mystery, but the club has John Lannan in place to take over. In Miami on Tuesday, manager Davey Johnson told reporters that Lannan will not be added to the roster right away. That will allow him to make a final start at Triple-A Syracuse.

The organization hasn't announced a full tally of its recalls, but there are several obvious candidates and areas of need.

"I really was [looking forward to expanded rosters] last year much more so than this year," Johnson said last week. "This year we'll probably have about five or six, and the majority of them, if not all of them, will have been here already. Maybe with one exception, but we had him in the spring."

Almost every big league club adds a third catcher in September, especially in the National League. That allows for flexibility if Johnson wants to use one of them as a pinch hitter and still have an injury replacement on hand. Washington just happens to have two sitting in the minors.

Both Sandy Leon, now at Syracuse, and Jhonatan Solano have played in the majors this season for a combined 22 games. Solano was placed on the 15-day disabled list July 18 with an oblique injury and is on a rehab assignment at Double-A Harrisburg. Leon has been healthy and playing almost every day in Triple-A.

Johnson also has specifically mentioned a need for a pinch runner. Syracuse outfielder Corey Brown can do that and more. He hit .284 with an .880 OPS, 23 homers, eight triples and 22 doubles in Triple-A this season. Brown, named an International League postseason All-Star this week, is also a fine defensive player who can handle all three outfield positions.

Johnson also has said that veteran utility man Mark DeRosa, out with a groin strain since Aug. 5, will be activated from the disabled list this weekend. He has yet to make a rehab appearance in the minors. DeRosa is batting just .152 and earlier missed 51 games with an oblique strain. But he gives Johnson an experienced pinch hitter and is a vocal presence in the clubhouse.

The bigger question surrounds the status of starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang and reliever Henry Rodriguez. Both are on rehab assignments for injuries sustained in July. Neither was pitching particularly well before being injured. Rodriguez seems a better fit given the need for an extra reliever in the bullpen. But the club does have an extra spot on its 40-man roster and instead could add Christian Garcia, a 27-year-old right-hander who has a 0.61 ERA in 24 games for Syracuse this season.

Other outside candidates for a recall include infielder Anthony Rendon, the No. 6 pick in the 2011 draft, and Eury Perez, an outfielder for Syracuse with 50 steals in the minors this season. Both 22-year-olds are on the 40-man roster.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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