No. 5 Starter Watch: Nats serious about Mock

You can go back to watching basketball now; as Joseph White writes, the Nats have finally named their last starter:

    Garrett Mock's cliffhanger spring trip to the nation's capital had a better ending this year. He'll get to stay in town as the No. 5 starter for the Washington Nationals.

    Manager Jim Riggleman announced Saturday that the right-handed Mock got the nod over lefty Scott Olsen, who was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.


    Mock began the spring projected as the No. 3 starter, but he had some struggles early and ended up on the bubble along with Olsen, who returned after shoulder surgery ended his season early last July.

    The stats for Mock and Olsen, both 26, were similar this spring. Each allowed 12 earned runs in five starts, although Mock allowed 10 fewer hits in roughly the same number of innings.

    "You never want to be so flip about it to say that you could flip a coin as to which one you took," Riggleman said, "but it wavered day to day as to which guy we were going to take."

    Riggleman said Olsen is "just not quite there yet in terms of being fully 100 percent," even though Olsen had the better final spring outing. Mock allowed six runs on seven hits in 4 2-3 innings against the Florida Marlins on Tuesday, while Olsen gave up one run on five hits over five innings and struck out seven against the Boston Red Sox on Friday.

    "The overall body of work -- we couldn't really just put it all on that one outing," Riggleman said.

The overall body of work? Both pitched almost 20 innings. Mock struck out 12, walked six. Olson struck out 13, walked two. Wanna go bigger? Olson's won 33 games in the majors. Olson's won four games: 4-13. As a starter he's 3-11 with a 5.69 ERA.

In Mock's defense, his strikeouts and walks suggest he's a better pitcher than that. Not a lot better. But better. In fact, Mock's career strikeout-to-walk ratio is better than Olsen's (which does surprise me).

I'll admit that Riggleman knows a lot more about his pitchers than I know. I just wish he'd be a little more specific. But as Joseph White notes later in the piece, Mock's "hold on the spot could be tenuous, with last year's No. 1 overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg expected to move into the rotation in June."*

* By the way, I'm going to make a list of the No. 5 starters on Opening Day, and check on their status at the All-Star break. But the Nationals aren't making it easy. Officially speaking, Mock was the last National to win a slot in the rotation. But he won't be fifth in line; that's going to be Livan Hernandez, who's not on the 40-man roster and won't be added until the Nats need a fifth starter. So who should I count as No. 5? I'll probably go with Hernandez, just for the sake of consistency.