WASHINGTON -- Following Saturday's Major League roster expansion to 40 players, the Nationals selected Zach Duke and Christian Garcia from Triple-A Syracuse on Monday.
To make room for both players, Henry Rodriguez was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Rodriguez underwent surgery on Friday to clean up a bone spur in his right elbow.
Duke, 29, is a seven-year veteran left-hander who was an All-Star starter for the Pirates in 2009. But after being dropped by the Astros in Spring Training -- the team with baseball's worst record last year -- Duke's prospects for returning to the big leagues seemed slim.
"Obviously you're always hopeful about going back to the big leagues, but the way that my Spring Training went and the last year went, getting released in Spring Training, the whole thing was just trying to get back to where I felt like I was the pitcher I was a capable of being, regardless of what the numbers and everything else was," Duke said. "So I feel like I was able to accomplish that, and this is just icing on the cake for me. I feel as good on the mound right now as I have in years. It's a very comforting feeling for a pitcher."
Duke, who is 48-74 with a 4.56 ERA in 181 games (168 starts) in his big league career, expects to pitch out of the bullpen, which he did for the second-half of last season while with Arizona.
Garcia, meanwhile, is on a Major League roster for the first time in his career. The 27-year-old right-hander has undergone two Tommy John surgeries to his pitching elbow after he was a third-round Draft pick by the Yankees in 2004.
Garcia signed with the Nationals last season, spending 2011 with Class A Auburn and Syracuse. He started this season in Double-A Harrisburg before moving up to Syracuse. In total, Garcia went 2-1 with a 0.86 ERA, 66 strikeouts and 17 walks in 52 1/3 innings in the Minors.
"To be with guys as talented as everybody in here is an honor, just to be able to put a jersey on," Garcia said. "Knowing that they're in first place and trying to clinch a playoff spot in the NL, just being here is an honor. Hopefully whatever I can do to help will be awesome."
Johnson on Strasburg: 'I know how he feels'
WASHINGTON -- One morning after Davey Johnson announced Stephen Strasburg's last start will come on the road Sept. 12 against the Mets, the Nationals' brass sat down with their young ace to discuss his shutdown.
Johnson announced Strasburg, who has thrown 156 1/3 innings to date, will make two more starts after his six shutout innings in Sunday's 4-3 win over the Cardinals. Before Monday's series opener with the Cubs, the Nats' manager explained how Strasburg took the news in the meeting with Johnson, general manager Mike Rizzo and pitching coach Steve McCatty.
"McCatty, Mike Rizzo, myself and [Strasburg], we were able to have a nice little conversation," Johnson said. "He hates McCatty more than he did before the meeting, and me and Rizzo. It's no secret that [Strasburg] is an intense competitor, that he wants to be here, wants to be contributing, wants to be helping, and I'm sure it's probably eating him up more than anybody involved in this whole thing, because he wants to be here and helping his teammates.
"He's worked harder than anybody coming back from that surgery, and this is what you dream about being a part of. I know how he feels."
The Nationals set out from the beginning of the season with an innings limit for Strasburg, believed to be between 160 and 180 innings, in his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in September 2010. After Sunday's gem, the 24-year-old right-hander is 15-6 with a 2.94 ERA and a National League-leading 195 strikeouts.
When asked if Strasburg understands the decision to shut him down, Johnson said, "probably not."
"I'm not sure any of us understand, but it's the right thing to do," Johnson said. "The way I look at things, the job that the [team owners, the Lerner family] and the front office have done building this organization, I don't look at this as the only chance you're going to get to be in the postseason, the World Series. This team wasn't just piecemealed together for one year. It was built to last, and we're trying to make sure it lasts."
After Sunday's game, Strasburg said he was expecting to have a talk with Johnson soon.
"I just don't have anything to say," Strasburg said. "I'm in it with these guys and we've still got a long way to go, but I'm going to fight with [Rizzo] until the end."
The Nationals recalled left-hander John Lannan from Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday to eventually fill Strasburg's role in the rotation. Lannan will initially pitch out of the bullpen before assuming Strasburg's spot in the rotation. In two starts with the Nats this season, Lannan is 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA in 13 innings pitched.
If the Nationals do in fact reach the postseason, it is widely expected they will opt for a four-man rotation of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler. Lannan would then return to the bullpen.
Skole, Karns take home Nats' 2012 Minors honors
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals named third baseman Matthew Skole their Minor League Player of the Year and right-hander Nathan Karns their Minor League Pitcher of the Year on Monday.
Skole hit .292 with 28 doubles, one triple, 27 homers, 104 RBIs, and 83 runs scored in 118 games for Class A Hagerstown. His 27 home runs led the South Atlantic League, were most among Nationals Minor Leaguers, and good for third in all of Class A. The 23-year-old had a .989 OPS during the 2012 campaign, including a South Atlantic League-leading 1.013 OPS in just 101 games for Hagerstown.
Skole hit home runs in three consecutive games from Aug. 1-3, including a walk-off grand slam on Aug. 3 vs. Lexington. He proved to be the South Atlantic League's most prolific hitter during the 2012 season, averaging one home run every 12.70 at-bats. Last week, the South Atlantic League named Skole its Most Valuable Player in addition to his selection as both a midseason and postseason All-Star.
A native of Woodstock, Ga., Skole was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Georgia Tech.
Karns went 11-4 on the year, posting an organization-best 2.17 ERA (28 earned runs in 116 innings) in 24 games (18 starts) for Hagerstown and Class A Potomac. The 6-foot-5 righty began the season with Hagerstown, going 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 11 games (five starts) before being promoted to Potomac in early June. For the Potomac Nationals, Karns went 8-4 with a 2.26 ERA in 13 starts. He struck out an organization-best 148 batters, and his 11 wins were good for second among Nationals Minor Leaguers.
In nine starts from June 15 to Aug. 2, Karns went 8-0 with an 0.94 ERA in 57 1/3 innings, with 65 strikeouts against just 14 walks.
A native of Arlington, Texas, Karns was selected in the 12th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Texas Tech University.
Skole and Karns will be honored for their 2012 accomplishments during an on-field ceremony prior to Friday's 7:05 p.m. ET contest against Miami.
Johnson to give Burnett's ailing elbow a rest
WASHINGTON -- Nationals left-hander Sean Burnett is dealing with irritation in his pitching elbow and will rest for a couple of days, manager Davey Johnson said on Monday.
Burnett struggled in his two appearances against the Cardinals last week, blowing two saves after allowing a combined three runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings. Burnett also dealt with elbow tightness after the All-Star break, though he never landed on the disabled list.
"He has a little bit of irritation there, so I'm just staying off him," Johnson said. "With the expanded roster, you just give the guy some rest."
For the majority of the season, Burnett has been a solid eighth-inning pitcher for the Nats. In 50 2/3 innings this season, Burnett is 1-1 with two saves and a 2.49 ERA.
The Nationals' bullpen nevertheless received a boost on Monday, when Zach Duke and Christian Garcia were called up from Triple-A Syracuse. To make room on the 40-man roster, Henry Rodriguez (elbow) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.
Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.