04/22/10 8:38 PM ET
Atilano debuts as Haeger eyes first win
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Friday's starter matched against Dodgers knuckleballer Charlie Haeger won't be veteran Jason Marquis, but rather first-time starter Luis Atilano, called up from Triple-A Syracuse when Marquis went on the disabled list with bone chips in his right elbow.
The Nationals also won't know for sure whether third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will be available after suffering a right hamstring strain on Wednesday and missing the club's game on Thursday. Zimmerman also missed a few games last week with a left hamstring strain.
"It's a little sore," Zimmerman said about the right hamstring. "It's not as bad as I thought it was going to be. So that is a good thing."
What the Nationals do know for sure is that Atilano will be making his Major League debut. One of the team's best Minor League pitchers this season, Atilano pitched on Sunday and gave up a run in six innings against Lehigh Valley.
"Atilano is the hottest guy up there and he really threw well in Spring Training," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He is on [the same] rotation [as] Jason, so we don't have to move anybody up or back. It's a smooth transition with him. Plus, he is the guy who deserves the start on Friday out of the guys from Triple-A. We are comfortable with it and that is our short-term solution. We'll see what happens in the long term."
Dodgers: Haeger wants to bounce back
As the Dodgers wrapped up their series in Cincinnati, they were in their fourth consecutive rubber match, having taken series wins against the Giants and D-backs but lost to the Marlins.
Haeger will be seeking his first win of the season after two starts and a relief appearance. His last start, against the Giants last weekend, didn't go well, as he gave up five runs in three innings.
Nationals: Nats see upside in Atilano
Atilano, acquired from the Braves in 2006 for first baseman Daryle Ward, went a combined 9-8 with a 4.01 ERA for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse last season.
Now 24, he was recovering from Tommy John surgery when the Nationals acquired him in 2006, and the 6-foot-2, 220-pound right-hander from Puerto Rico has made the grade. "We feel he has come a long way and has a lot of upside left," Rizzo said.
The Dodgers provide another opponent with excellent 2009 credentials on the early '10 schedule for the Nationals. Based on '09 results, the Nationals are playing 31 of their first 40 games against winning ballclubs. Among them, the Dodgers, Rockies and Phillies all went to the postseason.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.