Due to Ross Detwiler‘s injury, AA pitcher Nathan Karns will make his MLB debut Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles. To make room for him on the 25-man roster, LHP Xavier Cedeno, called up yesterday, will return to AAA.
Karns was drafted in the 12th round in the 2009 MLB Draft out of Texas Tech. A shoulder injury caused him to miss all of the 2010 season and part of 2011, but he was named the Nationals’ 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year after compiling a 2.17 ERA at A and High A. Baseball America ranked him as the Nats’ #5 prospect, despite the fact that he is a year older than Stephen Strasburg. Now, with an 8.76 ERA in his last three starts and 4.60 overall in nine starts at AA Harrisburg, the Nationals are calling on Karns to face another pitcher who was in AA until recently, Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman.
Karns was added to the Nats’ 40-man roster this past offseason in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, which meant he also got an invite to Major League Spring Training. He impressed there, allowing one run in three outings and leaving the Nationals with the impression that he would be one of their first choices if they had to dip into the minors for a starting pitcher. A major component of the decision may have been pitching availability. Karns was scheduled to start on Tuesday anyway, while AAA starter and ex-Major Leaguer Ross Ohlendorf pitched recently and was therefore unavailable. Whether or not Karns was their top choice regardless of availability, it is clear the team thinks highly of him. Davey Johnson described his arm as “great”, and Kurt Suzuki, who caught him in Spring Training, called it “big-time.”
Despite his recent struggles, Karns will have a golden opportunity to state his case on the biggest stage tomorrow.