The Nationals will face some interesting personnel moves in the upcoming weeks.
When Chien-Ming Wang returns, it's assumed he'll reclaim his spot in the Nats' rotation. But what if Ross Detwiler continues his string of impressive starts? Does he simply head back to the bullpen to pitch long relief, a role that already features lefty Tom Gorzelanny? Would the club even consider going with a six-man rotation for a period of time? What pitcher gets sent out?
By the time Wang's ready to go, maybe another Nats pitcher will require some time off since it's extremely rare for any team to get through 162 games with the same five starters. That would buy the Nats some time, but sooner or later another decision would have to be made.
Who goes when Michael Morse returns? A couple of weeks ago -- before Morse was shut down for six weeks and it appeared both he and Rick Ankiel would come off the DL around the same time -- it appeared that Brett Carroll and probably Steve Lombardozzi would depart the clubhouse. Ankiel came back, and sure enough, Carroll was designated for assignment. Lombardozzi, however, has displayed a consistent knack for putting the ball in play when given the opportunity, and his versatility in the field sets him apart.
Last year, the Nats went with Matt Stairs as their principal lefty bat off the bench. Stairs brought a mature presence to the clubhouse, but didn't get a hit until May. By the time he was released in July, he was hitting just .154. It also didn't help that his defensive skills were pretty much shot.
This year's bench was put together with pop and versatility in mind, and Chad Tracy, Lombardozzi and Jesus Flores have already played key roles in victories. Free agent Mark DeRosa, after an impressive spring, has struggled at the plate. It's still a small sample size, but would the Nats stay with him through the All-Star break if that continues?
Has Roger Bernadina cemented his role as the fourth outfielder, at least until Bryce Harper is deemed ready for the big leagues? Bernadina has the speed to catch up to almost anything in the air, but his offense can be intermittent. With a skipper who over the years has been willing to sacrifice some defense for offense, Bernadina can't be entirely comfortable.
The start the Nationals enjoyed this year -- not seen in this town for about 60 years -- has fans thinking about the postseason. The decisions that are forthcoming are the kind that winning franchises have to make, not 100-loss teams. It's the reason they pay general manager Mike Rizzo the big bucks. He'll make those decisions, and his track record, while not perfect, should keep that optimism flowing.
Examiner columnist Phil Wood co-hosts the "Mid-Atlantic Sports Report" and is a regular contributor to " Nats Xtra" on MASN. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.