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Who's In Starting Rotation?

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

VIERA, Fla., March 13 -- Monday evening, Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta and his coaching staff met for nearly two hours behind closed doors, a time to catch up on the status of what might be their roster come Opening Day, which was exactly three weeks off. Each coach was asked to submit his 25-man roster, the players he thought would be the best fit.

While no final decisions were made, that process will come closer to completion later this week. The club had its only off day of the Grapefruit League season Tuesday, but the following two days -- in which the Nationals will play three games -- will go a long way toward providing some answers to the team's most significant question: Who will be in the starting rotation?

Those still in contention: "Anybody who hasn't been sent down," Acta said. The team is likely to make more cuts by Friday.

On Wednesday, right-hander Jason Simontacchi will start against the St. Louis Cardinals, another chance to prove he belongs. He'll be backed up by Levale Speigner, a Rule 5 selection who was primarily a reliever in the Minnesota organization but is being considered as a starter with Washington.

On Thursday, the team plays split-squad games against Detroit and the Los Angeles Dodgers, with lefty Matt Chico and right-hander Jason Bergmann drawing the starting assignments, respectively. Tim Redding will relieve Chico in what may be Redding's last, best chance to prove he should stay in consideration despite his 23.62 ERA.

One player who hasn't been under serious consideration for the major league rotation is lefty Billy Traber, who started eight games for Washington last year. Traber has allowed six hits and one run in 4 2/3 innings over three appearances, but only once has pitched more than one inning.

Patterson Rests

Acta seemed unconcerned that, by skipping a scheduled outing in an intrasquad minor league game Tuesday, right-hander John Patterson would go 10 days without facing hitters and more than two weeks without facing a major league team. Patterson's only outing in the Grapefruit League thus far was March 3, in which he pitched two innings against Baltimore.

"John's not trying to make this team," Acta said. "We'd rather see some [other] guys up front than John. He's on target. He's fine."

Patterson's next outing is scheduled for Sunday against Florida.

Hot Zimmerman

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .455 with two doubles and two homers, and Acta's only concern is keeping him this sharp over the next three weeks.

"I feel really comfortable," Zimmerman said earlier this week. "No complaints."

Pitcher of the Day Simontacchi, who hasn't pitched in a major league game since 2004 and hasn't won one since 2003, has given up five earned runs over seven innings in two Grapefruit League games. He starts today against St. Louis. Up Next Today vs. Cardinals in Jupiter, 1 p.m.

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