Report date and a rotation guess
Sunday, February 20, 2011; 10:41 AM
Nationals position player have to report today, with physicals taking place tomorrow and the first full-squad workout coming Tuesday. Alex Cora and Matt Stairs are the lone players yet to make an appearance at the facility. (Bryce Harper hasn't really been around, but he checked in and dropped some things off late one night at the end this past week.) Given that Cora was playing winter ball into February and Stairs is a 42-year-old who's been in the league since 1992, the Nationals aren't exactly worried about anyone. The first spring training game is hardly a week away - the Nationals will play the Mets in Port St. Lucie on Feb. 28, a week from tomorrow. Chad Gaudin, who the Nationals see as a fringe starting rotation candidate and a potential long reliever, will start the game. Livan Hernandez will start the next day, when the Mets come to Viera. Manager Jim Riggleman has yet to set the spring rotation following Hernandez, and that may be telling. Because of the off day after opening day, the Nationals will have wiggle room to set their initial rotation regardless of how they align starters during spring training games. But the way the Nationals follow up Hernandez will likely be a window into how the Nationals view their opening day rotation. Between Hernandez and likely fifth starter Tom Gorzelanny, there could be a valid argument for lining up Jason Marquis, John Lannan and Jordan Zimmermann in any order. Marquis is the veteran. Lannan started opening day the past two years. Zimmermann is probably the most talented. Riggleman has said match-ups will help decide the way he lines up the pitchers. That being the case, it may make sense for Zimmermann to start the fourth game, the opening game of the Nationals' second series, in Florida against the Marlins. The Marlins have a predominantly right-handed lineup, and Zimmermann, a hard-throwing right-hander, had success against them last season, facing the minimum and striking out nine in a six-inning start. The Nationals will probably want to split up Hernandez and Marquis, since they're both right-handers who rely on sinking the ball. All of that being said, here's an educated guess at how the Nationals' rotation, barring injury, will line up on opening day: 1. Livan Hernandez 2. John Lannan 3. Jason Marquis 4. Jordan Zimmermann 5. Tom Gorzelanny I'm going to go watch some bullpen sessions. More later today.