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Fifth starter intrigue

Dave Sheinin
Copyright 2011
Monday, March 7, 2011; 12:11 PM

While Tom Gorzelanny (illness) and Chien-Ming Wang (shoulder) -- the two veterans the Nationals hope will solidify their rotation this season -- work their way back to game-shape, the battle for that open fifth-starter job continues to be the best story of the camp. On Saturday, Chad Gaudin pitched well against the Yankees. On Sunday, it was Ross Detwiler dominating the Braves. And today, it is Yunesky Maya, the intriguing Cuban right-hander, taking on the visiting Houston Astros at Space Coast Stadium. (Lefty John Lannan is also getting some work in this morning, in a minor league game.) In one sense, the jockeying for position that we in the media tend to focus on during spring training is pointless, since chances are, all of these guys will start games for the Nationals this season, given the rate of attrition of pitchers. But the intriguing part is whether someone like Detwiler or Maya pitch so well this spring, the Nationals find it impossible to leave them out of the rotation -- and in turn, which more established big leaguer would be bumped to fit them in. Here is the Nationals' lineup for today, highlighted by Adam LaRoche's first appearance at first base. (Also, Jeff Frazier, a minor-league free-agent signee this winter, gets his second start in three days in left field.) CF Roger Bernadina 2B Danny Espinosa DH Jayson Werth 3B Ryan Zimmerman RF Michael Morse 1B Adam LaRoche C Ivan Rodriguez LF Jeff Frazier SS Alberto Gonzalez FROM THE POST: The Nationals pull off a perfectly executed relay, and we go inside to discover the hidden beauty in a 9-6-5 putout. Boz says the Baltimore Orioles, with some big spending and some big-name acquisitions, have done their part to spice up the Orioles-Nationals rivalry. And from Sunday, meet the man who will likely be Bryce Harper's first minor league manager.

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