WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson was optimistic on Saturday about pitcher Chien-Ming Wang's progress at Triple-A Syracuse, and Wang will likely pitch out of the bullpen when he returns -- at least temporarily.
Entering the season, Wang was locked in as the team's fifth starter, but has yet to pitch for Washington because of a strained left hamstring. Ross Detwiler took advantage by filling that role and going 3-2 with a 2.75 ERA in seven starts this season. Wang also had shoulder surgery in 2009, forcing him to miss almost two seasons.
"I really like Chien-Ming Wang," Johnson said. "I think he's a heck of a pitcher. I like what I saw last year in his progression from a shoulder injury. I love a sinkerballer. He has great pedigree."
Wang went 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA in 11 starts last season. Johnson still values him as a starter, but he is reluctant to tweak a rotation that has been the strength of the club. The Nationals lead Major League Baseball in several pitching categories entering Saturday, including ERA (2.90), starters' ERA (2.63) and strikeouts (341).
"Detwiler has pitched himself into a role as one of the main guys, for not only this year, but for the future here," Johnson said. "Everybody says it's a good problem to have, but probably not for the questions I'm going to get asked [by the media], because there is no easy choice."
As a result, Wang will go to the bullpen by default. But that certainly is not the long-term plan, according to Johnson.
"When [Wang] comes up, I'll probably start him in the bullpen," Johnson said. "It's probably the easiest no-decision, But I don't look at him as a reliever. I look at him as a quality Major League starter."
Johnson shakes up Nationals' lineup
WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson overhauled the lineup for Saturday's Interleague game against the Orioles in the hopes of finding a spark for his team's struggling offense.
Steve Lombardozzi took over the leadff spot for Ian Desmond, who dropped to fifth in the order. Danny Espinosa, who is batting .209 on the season, was out of the lineup. The Nationals are averaging 3.9 runs per game this month and are 9-8.
"I just needed to shake it up," Johnson said. "I felt like the offense is sputtering a little bit. Sometimes when you're sputtering a bit, change clears the air."
Desmond spoke to Johnson earlier in the week and said he does not have to be locked in at the leadoff spot. By moving down in the lineup, Desmond could have more opportunities with runners on base.
"He's driven in some big runs last year and this year hitting in the one-hole," Johnson said."His RBI numbers would be better if he was in more of a run-producing role. I also liked to swap him basically with [Bryce] Harper. I like Harper's energy, too, and I want to give him more at-bats."
In the seventh inning of Friday's game, Harper singled and then Espinosa was asked to bunt him into scoring position. However, Espinosa struck out when his bunt attempt went foul with two strikes, stalling any type of rally. Espinosa could find his way back into the lineup for the series finale on Sunday, Johnson said.
"I just felt like he's struggling a little bit," Johnson said. "He had two strikes [last night] and he bunted on his own. I just sense a little frustration there. He's a heck of a talent."
Todd Karpovich is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.