Jordan Zimmermann will make his regularly scheduled start Sunday, then slide into the No. 5 spot in the Nationals' rotation coming out of the All-Star break as the club seeks to stretch his season out before reaching his innings limit for 2011.
With Zimmermann staying in the rotation this weekend, left-hander Ross Detwiler (who started Tuesday night and earned the win) will move to the bullpen and assume a long reliever's role.
Manager Davey Johnson said he'll attempt to keep Detwiler on a starter's schedule; he will likely pitch only every fourth or fifth day. But the 25-year-old will fill a much-needed long role in the Nationals' bullpen.
"I won't use him as your typical left-handed reliever," Johnson said. "I'll use him strictly long and line him up. He'll get his throwing in between pitching. He's a valuable product, a young left-hander that throws the ball good. So I won't use him like that."
Summoned from Class AAA Syracuse to make a spot start Tuesday against the Cubs, Detwiler wound up carrying a shutout into the sixth inning before surrendering a two-run homer to Aramis Ramirez. The organization still views its 2007 first-round draft pick as starter in the long-term, but Johnson had expressed a desire to carry a "sixth starter" since assuming the managerial position last week.
There was some consideration given to skipping Zimmermann's next turn and having Detwiler start the final game before the All-Star break, but club officials decided to keep the emerging right-hander on a regular schedule and have him start Sunday against the Rockies.
Zimmermann, though, won't pitch every fifth day during the season's second half. Johnson said he'll come out of the break as the No. 5 starter and get bypassed whenever off-days allow for it.
All of this is an attempt to keep Zimmermann actively pitching as deep into the season as the Nationals can before he reaches his predetermined limit of 160 innings in his first full year since Tommy John surgery. The right-hander's total currently sits at 108 2/3 innings, so he's likely to make eight more starts before being shut down.
The Nationals hope they can spread those eight starts out until September 1, at which point rosters expand to 40 and another starter can take Zimmermann's rotation spot.
"It's not a great situation," Johnson said. "But again, his welfare is more important than any particular game."
In other news, reliever Cole Kimball is scheduled to visit a specialist in New York Thursday to have his ailing right shoulder re-examined. Kimball has not pitched since June 9 in San Diego. He attempted to resume a throwing program earlier this week but still complained of shoulder pain, so he's been shut down until further notice.