Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Matt Chico allowed two runs over five innings but still was demoted.
The Nationals informed the left-hander he'll be optioned back to Class AA Harrisburg following today's 5-4 victory over the Marlins. Chico, who was formally called up this morning to take John Lannan's spot in the rotation, allowed just two runs on six hits in five innings in his spot start.
He wasn't surprised to learn of his fate after the game and said he arrived at Nationals Park today figuring he'd only get this one outing.
"I figured there was a 95 percent chance that was it," he said. "I tried not to think about it. I know I'll be pitching again in five days somewhere."
The Nationals haven't announced a corresponding roster move, but they're likely to add another reliever, perhaps left-hander Jesse English.
Chico still could, in theory, return to start Thursday against the Rockies. If Lannan feels any discomfort during his bullpen side session Monday, manager Jim Riggleman said the club will shut him down. If Lannan goes on the DL, the organization is allowed to recall Chico less than 10 days after his demotion.
Chico's return to the majors nearly two years since his last appearance got off to a rough start. He plunked Marlins leadoff hitter Cameron Maybin with his first pitch of the game. But he bounced back to retire the side and wound up carrying a shutout into the sixth inning before allowing two runs.
"That first pitch, all the nerves started coming back," he said. "I felt like my first big-league game again."
Said manager Jim Riggleman: "To hit the first hitter and get himself composed and pitch as good as he did for the next five innings was pretty impressive."
Chico led the Nationals' pitching staff with 31 starts as a rookie in 2007, but he was demoted after opening the 2008 season 0-6 and then learned he needed Tommy Johnn surgery on his left elbow. He returned to pitch last summer, making three starts at Class A Hagerstown and 12 starts at Harrisburg. He opened this season back at Harrisburg, making six starts before today's promotion.
"It seems like forever since I've been up here," he said. "To get back up here, it's kind of a milestone for me."