WASHINGTON -- Javi Vazquez's run of troubling starts continued against the Nationals Sunday.
The 35-year old veteran gave up a season-high six earned runs -- all in the first inning -- as the Nationals batted around and produced six hits before pitcher Jason Marquis was thrown out at third base to end the inning. Vazquez has given up first inning runs in all eight of his starts this season and has a first inning ERA of 15.25. His overall ERA? Not much better, up to 7.55 from 6.88 after four innings of work Sunday.
Vazquez's last three innings Sunday weren't bad. He gave up just one hit, and retired eight in a row before Marquis got another hit off him. Vazquez walked Roger Bernadina, but struckout Danny Espinosa to end the inning. He was pinch hit for in the fifth by Ozzie Martinez.
But the question is: Have the Marlins seen enough? They signed Vazquez to a one-year, $7 million deal thinking his rough season in New York in 2010 would become a speed bump with a return to the National League. That obviously hasn't happened.
So who could the Marlins replace Vazquez with? Truth is there aren't many enticing options.
Down in New Orleans, three possibilities stand out: right-hander Elih Villanueva, who pitched well in spring training and was the organization's pitcher of the year in 2010; right-hander Tom Koehler (4-0 with a 2.67 ERA in 7 starts) and right-hander Jay Buente, who has gone from relieving to starting the last five games and looking halfway decent.
Most figure Villanueva would be the first option. But he's 4-3 with a 5.67 ERA in eight starts. On May 8, he got tagged by Iowa for four home runs and seven earned runs in a loss.
Koehler, a former 18th round pick in the 2008 Draft, pitched eight scoreless innings his last time out on May 11. He gave up five hits, two walks and struckout five.
Buente, a 14th round pick in the 2006 draft, came up and saw action with the Marlins last season. He made eight appearances, but racked up a 6.55 ERA. In his last five starts in New Orleans, though, he's gone 3-0 with 1.91 ERA in 33 innings of work. Before this season, he had four career starts in the minors.
Left-hander Sean West, who pitched for the Marlins plenty in 2009 but struggled in 2010, injured his shoulder in his first start. After the game, the Marlins said West was a week to 10 days away from pitching in a game.
Alex Sanabia, who pitched for the Marlins in 2010, is out with an elbow injury.