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Posted at 09:44 AM ET, 03/13/2012

A guess at the Nationals’ opening day roster


The Nationals made their first round of cuts yesterday, and while there were no surprises, it puts them one step closer to choosing their opening day roster. As much emphasis as the opening day roster receives annually, it matters only so much. The first 25 men will change so much over the season that you won’t be able to remember some of the players by the end – last year, you may or may not recall, Brian Broderick made the cut.

Still, it sure gives us something to talk about. With the Nationals at the halfway point between when pitchers and catchers reported to when they leave Viera, here’s our best guess at what things will look April 5.

LINEUP

1. Ian Desmond, SS

2. Danny Espinosa, 2B

3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B

4. Michael Morse, LF

5. Adam LaRoche, 1B

6. Jayson Werth, RF

7. Wilson Ramos, C

8. Rick Ankiel, CF

Notes: Not many surprises here. In the winter, I thought the Nationals would hit Espinosat sixth and Werth second, but during the spring training Johnson has kept Espinosa at the top of the lineup. He likes to break up the right-handed hitters by putting LaRoche fifth.


(Julio Cortez - AP)
ROTATION

1. Gio Gonzalez

2. Jordan Zimmermann

3. Stephen Strasburg

4. Edwin Jackson

5. Chien-Ming Wang

Notes: The Nationals have been so impressed by Gonzalez that, as surprising as it is, they may tab to him to start opening day over Strasburg. By holding Strasburg back until the third start, it artificially extends his season a few days. It will also give the Nationals more flexibility to bump him back if they grow concerned about the effect any nasty weather in Chicago would have on his arm.

Wang essentially has a hammerlock on the fifth spot. First, the Nationals have been pleased with his throwing this spring. Second, the Nationals can’t trade until late May because he signed as a free agent, they can’t send him to the minors without losing him because he has no options and they can’t pitch him in the bullpen because his surgically repaired shoulder requires an extensive warm-up.

BULLPEN

1. Drew Storen

2. Tyler Clippard

3. Henry Rodriguez

4. Brad Lidge

5. Sean Burnett

6. Ross Detwiler

7. Ryan Mattheus

Notes: This assumes two things: the Nationals will find a trade partner for John Lannan and they will possibly cut ties with Tom Gorzelanny. On other teams, Gorzelanny could compete for the fifth starter job. On this staff, if the Nationals are serious in their aim to “take the best 25 north,” then it would be hard to justify keeping two left-handed long relievers and sending down Mattheus.

If the Nationals cannot trade Lannan, then they should stash him in the bullpen until they need a starter. Sending him to Class AAA would cost him service time and possibly delay his free agency for a season. The Nationals can’t make decisions based on their players’ financial best interests, but this is the kind of thing that could cause some clubhouse unrest.

With Gorzelanny, who is set to make $3 million this year, the Nationals could waive him by March 21 and pay only $500,000 of his salary. Or they could designate him for assignment, in which case any team would be free to take him and his salary. If he goes unclaimed, he would be sent to Syracuse, making his $3 million salary.

If the Nationals lose Lannan and Gorzelanny, they would still have Detwiler and Craig Stammen and Yunesky Maya as additional starters. That leaves them a little thin, given the attrition they stand to endure. So, it may be best for them to simply keep Lannan in the bullpen. If the Nationals don’t trade Lannan, it will be fascinating to see how this plays out.

BENCH

1. Jesus Flores

2. Steve Lombardozzi

3. Mark DeRosa

4. Roger Bernadina

5. Brett Carroll

Notes: The fifth spot remains up for grabs, with Jason Michaels also a strong candidate. I’m going with Carroll for now because of his defensive versatility and the frequency with which Johnson praises him. Given the emphasis Johnson has placed on offense, you wonder if Tyler Moore starts getting brought up. Putting him on the bench straight from Class AA could stunt his development, but then, Moore is already 25. From strictly a power-hitting perspective, Moore, who’s hit 62 minor league homers over the past two years, could be the best choice.

I thought Andres Blanco may give Lombardozzi a run, but Lombardozzi has been on a mission this spring. Johnson likes the fact that Lombardozzi switch-hits, which can help him dictate match-up late in games.

FROM THE POST

Davey Johnson will take a prudent approach to managing Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

LaRoche’s throw and Zimmermann’s start

Zimmerman is on fire

Nats make first cuts

Nats-Cards updates

Wang to start over Lannan

Harper wants to play

Opening day preview

Morse returns to lineup

Will Morse do it again?

By  |  09:44 AM ET, 03/13/2012

 
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