Jonathan Newton/TWP


Today against the Astros, Gio Gonzalez will make his final start before joining Team USA for the World Baseball Classic. The Nationals will limit Gonzalez to 50 pitches in order to ensure they are in compliance with WBC rules, and Gonzalez will throw extra pitches in the bullpen afterward.

The rules on pitcher usage in the WBC are written as if intended to be indecipherable. But basically, the Nationals are worried that throwing more than 50 pitches in an exhibition game would make Gonzalez ineligible to make his start March 12 for Team USA. It seems possible that pitchers aren’t allowed to throw more than 50 pitches in an exhibition once they’re on the roster and the event has started. It’s not entirely clear, though, and the Nationals are just making certain.

“I think we could go over 50 and he’d still be in line,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “But that’s why he’ll be on the short leash, if somebody complains that he threw too many pitches or something.”

Johnson named 2012 Nationals minor league pitcher of the year Nathan Karns and non-roster invitee Ross Ohlendorf as candidates to replace Gonzalez in the rotation as long as he pitches for Team USA. Karns, Johnson said, felt slight tightness in his leg in his last appearance. He’s scheduled to pitch tomorrow, and so long as he feels fine, Karns will likely start March 13. (The Nationals are off March 12, five days from now.)

Here are today’s lineups. Wilson Ramos will get three at-bats as the designated hitter.


1. Denard Span, CF

2. Danny Espinosa, 2B

3. Bryce Harper, LF

4. Wilson Ramos, C

5. Ian Desmond, SS

6. Chad Tracy, 3B

7. Tyler Moore, 1B

8. Kurt Suzuki, C

9. Corey Brown, RF

-Gio Gonzalez, SP


1. Tyler Greene, SS

2. Jose Altuve, 2B

3. Chris Carter, LF

4. Justin Maxwell, CF

5. J.D. Martinez, RF

6. Nate Freiman, DH

7. Brandon Laird, 1B

8. Carlos Corporan, C

9. Matt Dominguez, 3B

-Philip Humber, SP