Notes: Chances for Minors pitchers?

Notes: Chances for Minors pitchers?

CHICAGO -- Entering Tuesday's action, the Nationals' pitching staff is near the bottom of almost every category, and the team is still debating whether or not to carry more than 11 pitchers. It had 12 for more than two weeks until Sunday, when reliever Jason Bergmann was sent down to Triple-A New Orleans in favor of catcher Wiki Gonzalez.

Having more than 11 pitchers will depend on how productive the starting pitching is. It has been inconsistent all year and has left the bullpen overworked.

General manager Jim Bowden went so far as to say the Nationals are willing to give some of the Minor Leaguers an opportunity if the pitchers from the current roster can't do the job.

"How many pitchers we have [on the roster] will be on a day-to-day basis. It will be evaluated," Bowden said. "One of the great things about our sport is that we have the flexibility to change rosters on a daily basis. We have a plethora of pitchers [in the Minor Leagues] that deserve an opportunity from Shawn Hill to Bill Bray to Saul Rivera to Santiago Ramirez to Kevin Gryboski.

"All of them are throwing phenomenally well, and all of them are being given serious consideration on a daily basis. We keep hoping that our guys turn it around [in the Major Leagues]. That's our preference, but when it's time to make a change, we will."

The left-handed Bray, who was the team's No. 1 pick in 2004, has been talked about the most ever since left-hander Joey Eischen gave up the game-winning home run to Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. last week. Entering Tuesday's action, Bray was 4-1 with a 2.81 ERA, two saves and 39 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings with Triple-A New Orleans.

Asked if Bray was ready for the big leagues, Bowden said, "I think Bill is pretty close to being ready. You never know until they get up here. Certainly, in the last couple of weeks, he is throwing the ball extremely well. We are very pleased with his development."

Extending contracts: The Nationals more than likely will not talk about contract extensions with their current free agents until the Lerner group takes over. If players are offered deals, the Lerners will be consulted first.

One of the biggest free agents the Nationals have is outfielder Jose Guillen, who is not expected to be with the team beyond this season. He more than likely will be dealt before the trade deadline on July 31. At least 15 clubs are interested in his services, according to a baseball source.

Guillen is off to a slow start, hitting .227 with five home runs and 18 RBIs, entering Tuesday's action.

Injury report: Right-hander Ryan Drese saw Dr. Tim Kremchek, the senior medical consultant for the Nationals, in Cincinnati on Monday, and an MRI revealed that Drese has a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The original diagnosis was a flexor tendon strain. Drese played catch last Friday and the elbow didn't feel right.

Drese may have surgery, but for now, according to head athletic trainer Tim Abraham, Drese is going to rest for two to four weeks and will then be re-evaluated and receive a second opinion.

Starter Pedro Astacio, on the disabled list because of a right forearm strain, threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and didn't feel any pain. The plan is for Astacio to throw batting practice on Friday, but there is no timetable as to when he will play a regular-season game or when he will have a rehab assignment.

"We are taking each outing one-by-one and see where we are," Abraham said.

Send in your questions: The Nationals mailbag runs every Monday. Send in your questions now.

Stat of the day: Entering Tuesday's action, the Nationals/Expos were 9-13 when playing night games at Wrigley Field.

Did you know? Starting Tuesday, the Nationals will play 36 games in 37 days through June 21. The lone off-day during that stretch is June 1, between series at Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

Coming up: The Nationals play the second game of a three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night at 8:05 p.m. ET.

Right-hander Zach Day will get the start for Washington, while left-hander Sean Marshall gets the nod for Chicago.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.