Michael Schwimer is not happy with the Phillies right now

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The Phillies optioned right-handed reliever Michael Schwimer to Triple-A Lehigh Valley today in order to make room for Jeremy Horst’s return from the paternity leave list. That’s hardly headline news. But the story behind the roster move is a bit more interesting.

Here’s the scoop from Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com:

According to multiple sources, the demotion did not sit well with Schwimer. Two sources said the pitcher had recently complained of a sore arm and believed he should have been placed on the disabled list instead of being sent to the minors. Schwimer apparently made his feelings known to club personnel.

It is against Major League Baseball rules to send an injured player to the minors during the season. Of course, the definition of “injured player” can be subjective.

The usually gregarious Schwimer declined to speak with reporters as he strutted out of the clubhouse before batting practice Thursday. One person who had spoken to Schwimer said the pitcher was “making noise about his arm hurting and getting a second opinion.”

Players who are on the disabled list continue to receive major-league pay and service time, so there are motivations at play here that we usually don’t think about in the day-to-day routine of a baseball season. Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock declined to comment on the situation, but if Schwimer continues to insist that he’s injured, it could open the door to a grievance being filed.

Schwimer, 26, has a 4.46 ERA and 36/16 K/BB ratio over 34 1/3 innings with the Phillies this season.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.