The fifth starter spot is overwhelmingly Tom Gorzelanny’s to lose, and it has been since the first day of spring training, even after Gorzelanny struggled in his first outing. All the Nationals needed to see was that Gorzelanny had returned to full strength following his early-spring illness.

Tuesday night, during the Nationals’ 5-2 loss to the Mets, Gorzelanny proved himself healthy, and may have fully sealed the fifth starter job in the process. He allowed one run in four innings on two hits and three walks, striking out four. Gorzelanny was excellent for three innings, allowing only one ball – a double by David Wright – out of the infield during the span. Control issues provided a speed bump in the fourth, but overall it was an encouraging night for Gorzelanny.

“It’s definitely the best I’ve felt this spring,” Gorzelanny said. “I was real happy with the way everything was working. … I felt my slider was a lot better this time. I was able to locate it better and make a better pitch out of it. I felt pretty good about it today. I felt good about all my pitches.”

Yes, Ross Detwiler (who starts Wednesday against the Astros) and Chad Gaudin (who cruised through a minor league game Tuesday afternoon) have both performed better than Gorzelanny this spring. And Yunesky Maya isn’t far behind them.

“Nobody is pitching themselves off the club,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “They’re all doing well. It’s a good problem to have.”

But the Nationals traded for Gorzelanny in order to insert him into their rotation. Mike Rizzo said so at the time, and that hasn’t changed. Gorzelanny does not have any minor league options remaining, whereas both Detwiler and Maya do. He also has a track and recent success, including a 3.92 FIP last year, which neither Detwiler nor Maya have.

Gaudin is making a case to be the Nationals’ long reliever, but so is Brian Broderick. He pitched another scoreless innings tonight, giving him one earned run allowed in 8 2/3 innings this spring. The Nationals will not want to overreact to one good spring, but they could be forced to make room on their 25-man roster in order to keep Broderick, a Rule 5 pick from the Cardinals.

“He’s got a shot to make the club,” Riggleman said.


Chris Marrero’s hard work has made him an improved, major-league worthy first baseman.