Nationals exploring pitching options

BY Ken Rosenthal • July 17, 2012

The Nationals do not intend to allow right-hander Stephen Strasburg reach his innings limit without an alternate plan.

The team is exploring trades for starting pitchers, including Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster, according to major-league sources.

In addition, the Nationals are looking for an everyday catcher, with the Rockies’ Ramon Hernandez among their potential targets, sources said.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo remains adamant that the Nationals will shut down Strasburg after he reaches his prescribed limit, believed to be 160 to 165 innings.

Strasburg, who underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2010, currently is at 105 innings. At his current pace of fewer than six innings per start, he would make approximately nine or 10 more starts, with his season ending in late August or early September.

The addition of a pitcher such as Dempster would give the Nationals a veteran replacement for the pennant race and, if the Nats qualify, the postseason. The team currently leads the Braves in the NL East by 2 1/2 games.

The Braves also are among the clubs pursuing Dempster, along with the Dodgers, Tigers, Red Sox and others, sources said. The Nationals, meanwhile, are not looking only at Dempster; Brewers righty Zack Greinke and Twins lefty Francisco Liriano are among their other potential targets.

Catcher is another need for Washington.

The Nats lost their regular, Wilson Ramos, to a torn right ACL in mid-May. They currently are using the tandem of Jesus Flores and Jhonatan Solano, and rank 12th in the NL at the position with a .666 OPS. Flores has thrown out only 4 of 37 runners attempting to steal.

The Nationals, however, rank first in the majors with a 3.15 ERA, and a new catcher would need to adjust quickly while learning the team’s talented, hard-throwing staff.

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