(Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

The start of a baseball season differs from the rest of the year. The days off are plentiful, and the meat-grinder schedule hasn’t set in. Opening day is an event, and most of the season is a slog. They don’t hang bunting for a Tuesday night in July.

“It seems like we haven’t played at all,” Ross Detwiler said. “It seems like we’re on a football schedule right now, one game a week. It’ll pick up. You got to enjoy the off days while you can.”

This year, the difference has been most acute for Detwiler and Dan Haren, the Nationals’ fifth and fourth starters. Because of days off and how their spring training schedules finished, both pitchers will have nine days of rest between starts to begin the season. Haren will make his Nationals debut Friday in Cincinnati, and Detwiler will follow Saturday. They’ve both tried to stay on track in their own way.

Detwiler threw an extra bullpen session between his final spring training start and opening day. He bided his time before beginning his typical routine yesterday. This afternoon, he threw his usual side session in the Nationals Park bullpen.

“It’s kind of weird,” Detwiler said. “But you try to make it as normal possible.”

Monday, Haren threw between 50 and 60 pitches in a bullpen session, longer than normal and enough to make him feel fatigued. He also played  long toss more often than he would have on a typical schedule.

“You just got to take the extra rest and enjoy it a little bit,” Haren said. “The season is going to be long and grueling. So I can’t really complain about having too many days off.”

Manager Davey Johnson suggested the veteran Haren could pass on advice to Detwiler, but it may actually be the other way around. Detwiler toggled between the rotation and the bullpen in the first half last season and part of 2012, which made him accustomed to an irregular schedule. He’s rested at least six days before 11 of his 56 career starts. Detwiler also pitched on 10 days rest for the last start he made – Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS, when he allowed no earned runs over six innings.

Haren has long prided himself on taking the ball each time his turn in the rotation comes, if not more. He has made 258 of his 286 career starts after four or five days of rest. In many rotations, he said, his manager would actually bump him up following an off day for the team, keeping him on regular rest rather than giving Haren extra time off.

“It’ll be nice this year having five really good starters to get an extra day almost every time,” Haren said. “There’s been years in the past when I’ve thrown every five days regardless. It can wear you down in September or October.”