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Concern about Atilano?

Jul 16, 2010, 9:52 PM EDT

MIAMI — When the Nationals optioned Luis Atilano to Class AAA Syracuse last weekend, the club made it clear the demotion would only be temporary and that the right-hander would rejoin the rotation to serve as the No. 5 starter out of the All-Star break.

Atilano, though, struggled mightily in his first (and presumably only) appearance for Syracuse yesterday, allowing five runs on seven hits and three walks in only 2 1/3 innings against Pawtucket.

"He didn't have a good night," Jim Riggleman said today. "He just didn't get his ball sinking, get the groundballs on hittable pitches. Hopefully it's just an aberration that he didn't have a good day there. But it's challenging. Double-A, Triple-A hitters, they're trying to get you. They got him. But we're confident the games he gave us here are more of indication of what he can do for us."

It wasn't as though Atilano was dominating big-league hitters before the demotion. Over his last five starts, he went 1-3 with a 5.96 ERA. So is Atilano still a lock to start Tuesday in Cincinnati?

"Unless I hear different, that's our plan," Riggleman said. "Our plan is that he's going to join us Tuesday. We need a starter Tuesday. That's why we sent him down there to pitch [yesterday], so he'd be readyRead more ยป

  1. WillC - Jul 17, 2010 at 3:20 AM

    I really don't understand this. If he lasted for less than 3 innings against AAA hitters, then how long is he expected to last against the Reds? Why not bring in Detwiler (or even Chico) who has pitched effectively in AA? I just don't see any benefit in start Atilano any more in majors this season.

  2. Anonymous - Jul 17, 2010 at 3:54 AM

    ABA…Anybody but Atilano!

  3. Anonymous - Jul 17, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    Atilano most likely will not make it past the first or second inning. Bautista….make sure you are warmed up!I see another curly L coming tuesday….sigh…

  4. Anonymous - Jul 17, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    Detwiller got the loss in Harrisburg last night and pitched terribly

  5. alexva - Jul 17, 2010 at 3:08 PM

    "Detwiler…and pitched terribly". were you there? the game recap does not reflect this?

  6. Anonymous - Jul 17, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    After a decent start, big-league hitters figured out Atilano rather easily. I sense that the management is beginning to grow tired of pitch-to-contact "finesse" pitchers like Atilano who rely almost exclusively on location in order to induce groundballs and barely strike anyone out. Being a pure contact pitcher, and a mediocre one at that, with this Nationals defense is a disaster waiting to happen. If Atilano wants to stay in the majors, he needs to do the following:- Regain the kind of consistent control he exhibited previously in the minors. In order to be truly successful as a contact pitcher you have to have superb control every time out–very few walks and everything low in the zone or around the corners–or you blow up, because you rely on DPs to negate weak singles and can't get a quick strikeout to get out of an inning. But a side effect of having that kind of control is–surprise surprise–strikeouts! Great contact pitchers like Maddux still had very respectable K/9 ratios (hell, he ended up with over 3000). Which leads me to my second item…- Develop a second pitch–unless your name is Mariano Rivera, you cannot be successful against major league hitters with basically one pitch. If Strasburg only had his four-seam fastball, his line last night would have been a lot uglier because he was not locating at all. Fortunately, he has three other plus pitches to choose from and was able to shut them down with two-seamers and curves. Atilano is no Strasburg, and he certainly doesn't have everything working perfectly for him every time out, so he needs a second pitch he can rely on and throw for strikes–maybe even as an out pitch. For many "finesse" pitchers (e.g. '08 and '09 Lannan, Jamie Moyer) it is the changeup. In Atilano's case, he needs to completely abandon his disastrous curveball, mostly ditch the changeup, and focus on his slider, which has the potential to be his best pitch.Unfortunately, I think it may already be too late for Atilano–he had plenty of time go hone all of these skills in the minors, if he were able. Best-case, I think he is probably fourth or fifth starter material, but ultimately he may just be an organizational guy–he simply doesn't have the stuff to complete at the major league level, even in the bullpen, unless he makes drastic changes to his game. It's not like anyone was expecting dominance from him anyway, but if he can't make the necessary adjustments he will continue to hover around replacement level. Right now, according to Fangraphs, ALL of his pitches have a negative run value, ranging from -0.36 runs above average (i.e. 0.36 runs BELOW average) per hundred sliders to an unfathomable -6.97 runs above average per hundred curveballs. He has just a 5.7% swinging strike rate and his 1.12 GB/FB ratio isn't great for any pitcher, let alone a sinkerballer.

  7. Anonymous - Jul 17, 2010 at 6:18 PM

    >>>Detwiller got the loss in Harrisburg last night and pitched terribly.<<<Are you kidding or completely clueless? Detwiler pitched 5 innings, gave up 3 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk and 7 (yes seven) strike outs.It's not his fault his offense scored ZERO runs for him.

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