File photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Scott Olsen is 1-6 with an 8.72 ERA since coming off the DL.
All of the focus has been on the bench-clearing brawl, and rightfully so. But let's not forget one major reason things escalated up to that point: Scott Olsen's terrible start.
That's right, Olsen's disaster of an outing (nine runs allowed in 1 2/3 innings) turned this game into a blowout right from the get-go. And remember, the reason the Marlins got so upset and felt the need to throw at Morgan a second time was the fact he stole two bases after getting hit the first time with his team trailing 14-3.
Whether you believe that was a breach of baseball etiquette or not — and the majority of people not employed by the Marlins seem to agree it was not — it would have been a moot point had the Nats only trailed by a handful of runs at the time.
Which brings us to Olsen, who was as upset at himself after the game as Wes Helms was at Morgan.
"I got absolutely killed today," he said. "That's just how it was. I made bad pitches, and they hit them all."
As the future of the Nationals' rotation begins to take shape -- Stephen Strasburg won't be a part of it in 2011, but Jordan Zimmermann, Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis and probably John Lannan will be -- Olsen has all but pitched himself out of a job. Since returning from the DL in late-July, he's 1-6 with an 8.72 ERA.
Is his surgically repaired left shoulder still hurting? Olsen insists it's not. He repeated said "I feel fine" after last night's game.
This has been a bizarre season for Olsen. He's had some downright dominant starts, especially early in the year before going on the DL. But he's had more downright terrible starts, especially in the last month. The lack of consistency leaves the lefty frustrated.
"As a starting pitcher, getting into a rhythm of every five or six days, I would say it's more difficult to come off the DL, be up and down, do all this stuff," he said. "By no means is that an excuse. When I'm out there, I'm out there. I'm feeling fine. I've just got to be better. It's just the bottom line."
So what happens now? It seems obvious a change is about to take place. Yunesky Maya made what GM Mike Rizzo said would be his final start for Class AAA Syracuse last night, allowing one run and six hits over 5 1/3 innings. He will be promoted and he will be a member of the Nationals rotation the rest of this season.
Olsen's next scheduled start would be Tuesday against the Mets. Look for Maya to take his place and make his big-league debut at Nationals Park.
That leaves the Nats rotation the rest of the way as Hernandez, Zimmermann, Marquis, Lannan and Maya. And that leaves Olsen on the outside looking in.
Last December, the Nationals non-tendered Olsen, then re-signed him to a smaller contract with incentives based on games started. They've now paid him $2.3 million to go 3-8 with a 5.88 ERA in 15 starts this season.
Look for another non-tender this winter. But don't look for it to be followed by another incentive-laden contract.