All of the Washington Nationals' hopes, dreams, and plans for the future will come together tonight prior to the first game of their scheduled four-game series against the Cardinals.
At around 5:45 p.m., Bryce Harper will be introduced to Nationals fans with a live press conference that will be broadcast on MASN. Harper is just 17 years old and is not expected to see the field for at least two years. But such is the hype and anticipation surrounding him, and given how bad the news has been for most of this season, the Nationals' eagerness to remind fans that there's hope for the future is understandable.
Speaking of that bad news, Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to undergo an arthrogram today in his injured right forearm after a dry MRI earlier this week couldn't determine just how much damage was done Saturday night against Philadelphia. All signs point to Strasburg being shut down for the season regardless of the result of the arthrogram, and frankly this is the only reasonable and wise way for the Nationals to handle Strasburg at this point. Even if he Strasburg does come right back September 6 when he is eligible, he can only make, by my calculations, five starts (4 home, 1 away), assuming he takes his normal rest. Surely the Nationals realize that four extra home Strasburg starts is not worth the risk of trotting their $15 million arm out just as the cold weather begins to sharpen.
And that brings us to tonight's starter, Jordan Zimmermann, who, if all goes well, can be expected to be Strasburg's replacement in the rotation.
"He doesn't have an innings limit on a per-game basis," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said Tuesday night. "But he's a guy who, if he were to make six or seven starts, we'd hope to get between 30 and 40 innings out of."
Zimmermann was supposed to be a bigger part of the Nationals' 1-2 punch this year, but he complained of tightness in his right elbow midway through 2009 and underwent Tommy John surgery.
Now he's back, but whether he can continue to be effective on the order of his minor league performances is an open question. Like the futures of Strasburg and Harper, Zimmermann's future as an effective major league player is very much unknown. We'll start to know more about all three tonight.