The Baseball Page: April 7, 2013

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

Nationals report

Chris Young is Nationals' backup plan

The Nats know that the starting pitching health they enjoyed last season is unlikely to return. They remember Tommy John surgeries for Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann in the recent past and know that veteran Dan Haren, 32, has a chronic hip condition that could pose a problem as he ages. Even Ross Detwiler had a checkered injury history before last year's breakthrough campaign.

So getting Chris Young, a 6-foot-10 right-hander, back into the organization on a minor league deal this week proved a coup of sorts. Washington didn't really have an obvious option as a No. 6 starter if a pitcher went down. John Lannan, last year's reluctant security blanket, is now with Philadelphia. Young didn't want to be stashed at Triple-A Syracuse as Lannan had been in 2012. So after signing with the Nats during spring training, he opted out of his contract hoping to find a major league job elsewhere. That didn't happen, so Young returned to the fold this week. He is a decent insurance policy with a 3.79 ERA in 159 career starts. Young started 20 games for the New York Mets last season -- his most since 2007 -- and had a 4.15 ERA in his first year back after shoulder surgery.

MLB storylines

1 Detroit bullpen » Just a few months after cutting ties with closer Jose Valverde, the Tigers have at least opened the door to bringing back the man known as Papa Grande. The 35-year-old struggled last season after blowing five save attempts out of 40. Maybe Detroit could have lived with that, but Valverde allowed nine runs in just four playoff appearances. That was too much. But the Tigers have yet to find an obvious solution after top prospect Bruce Rendon failed to make the team out of spring training. Valverde, who had an American League-best 49 saves in 2011, has been brought back on a minor-league deal only -- for now.

2 Feeling Blue »

Toronto has heavy expectations after a monster trade brought over several star players from the Marlins and it added R.A. Dickey, last year's NL Cy Young Award winner, to the rotation in another deal. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays don't really have anyone who can catch Dickey on the roster. That's an issue. Catcher J.P. Arencibia was charged with three passed balls in Tuesday's loss to Cleveland. And that was after an offseason of preparing for the pitch. It just didn't work. Manager John Gibbons conceded that backup catcher Henry Blanco likely would get the next crack at Dickey when he starts against Boston on Sunday.

3 Speared » The Miami Marlins have won fewer than 60 games only once in a full season since the franchise was founded in 1993. That's usually the bar set for a season defined as "historically" bad. Not even the expansion Marlins (64-98) were that awful. But the current rag-tag crew may make a run at the team-worst 54-win season of 1998 -- coincidentally the year after ownership mined the club just weeks after winning a World Series title. This offseason was equally tumultuous. Miami was outscored 11-1 in a three-game sweep at Washington to start the season and already has lost first baseman Casey Kotchman (hamstring) to the disabled list.

Who's hot?

1. Chris Davis » The Orioles slugger hit a multirun homer in each of the Baltimore's first four games.

2. Matt Harvey » The young Mets fireballer struck out 10 Padres over seven shutout innings Wednesday.

3. Andy Pettitte » A vintage performance from the 40-year-old got the Yankees their first win Thursday.

Who's not?

1. Adam Wainwright » The Cardinals pitcher gave up 11 hits and four runs in an Opening Day dud vs. Arizona.

2. Cole Hamels » Three Braves hit home runs off the Phillies ace in five rocky innings Monday.

3. Dan Haren » The right-hander allowed four home runs in his debut with the Nats, a 15-0 loss to the Reds.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian McNally

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner