With four of their nine Opening Day starters on the disabled list, the Nationals have played the past few weeks with a patchwork group of rookies, Minor League callups and spot starters.
So when Ross Detwiler takes the mound for Washington in Thursday afternoon's rubber game against the Rockies, it will be a much-needed, and long-awaited, return.
Detwiler hasn't started a game since May 15 because of a nagging oblique strain, but after throwing 60 pitches in a rehab start at Class A Potomac over the weekend, the southpaw said that he has put the injury behind him. His replacement, rookie Nathan Karns, was sent to Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday after posting a 7.50 ERA in three starts.
"It's always tough, but in a long season like this, you kind of have to expect something to go wrong," Detwiler said of the injury. "Hopefully we get everything out of the way, and in the second half, we can just look forward and not have to worry about injuries."
Detwiler's counterpart, Jeff Francis, is also fresh off the disabled list. Francis made his first start on Saturday after missing more than three weeks with a left groin strain. He allowed six hits and four runs over four innings in a loss to the Padres.
"I think maybe there was some rust," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of Francis after the game. "He had to work hard to get through four."
Both Detwiler and Francis are 2-4 this season. Detwiler has a 2.76 ERA with five quality starts while Francis has a 6.30 ERA and only two quality starts.
Nationals: Ramos suffers a setback
Catcher Wilson Ramos has missed all but 14 games this season with a persistent left hamstring strain, and manager Davey Johnson said that the 25-year-old won't be rejoining the team any time soon.
Ramos was improving, according to Johnson, until he suffered a setback during a baserunning drill on Monday. The Nationals' manager said that it is now a "long shot" that Ramos will be back in the lineup before the All-Star break.
• Ian Desmond extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games with two hits on Wednesday. He went 2-for-3 and knocked in three of the Nationals' five runs. He is batting .400 (14-for-35) with four extra-base hits and 11 RBIs so far in June.
Rockies: Cuddyer expected back for series finale
The Rockies decided to postpone right fielder Michael Cuddyer's return to the lineup a day, so he'll start Thursday afternoon's finale of a three-game set with the Nationals.
Cuddyer suffered bruised ribs in a collision at first base last Thursday night and hasn't played since, although on Tuesday he was available for pinch-hit duty. Weiss said the extra day simply made sense.
• Less than a week after being selected by the Rockies with the third overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft, right-hander Jonathan Gray visited Coors Field and announced that he had signed a contract with the team.
Gray, whose fastball has been clocked at 101 mph, spent last season at the University of Oklahoma and is eager to get his professional career started. He signed for around $5 million, according to a baseball source, which is below slot value.
• The Rockies designated outfielder Eric Young Jr. for assignment before Wednesday night's loss to the Nationals. Young batted .316 in 98 games last year before an oblique injury ended his season early. He was hitting .242 this season.
• Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Desmond -- the heart of Washington's lineup -- are hitting a combined .452 against Jeff Francis in 42 career at-bats.
• Led by second-ranked Troy Tulowitzki (.349 batting average), the Rockies have three of the top 18 hitters in the National League.
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.