The Grapefruit League schedule of games will formally begin one week from tomorrow and it would seem that the team has started to put together some thoughts on what order their starting options will appear in. There are 10 pitchers in camp that the team is considering as starting options, so it does make sense to consider some ideas now rather than closer to first pitch. All 10 of these pitchers will need to be stretched out over the coming weeks. They’ll facing live batting practice this weekend.
Nationals Manager Davey Johnson reportedly told Mark Zuckerman this morning that Edwin Jackson is tentatively scheduled to make that first start – March 3 – against the Houston Astros. John Lannan will start their 3rd game against the New York Mets. Jordan Zimmermann will follow two days later against the St. Louis Cardinals. Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez will presumably start the other two games, though a specific order hasn’t yet been revealed.
Chien-Ming Wang is scheduled to throw a simulated game the same day that Lannan starts. He’s long removed from the shoulder injury that cost him nearly two full seasons and arrived in camp healthy but the team has chosen to take extra precautions with him.
Keep in mind that the order at the beginning of Grapefruit League games isn’t necessarily a big deal. Teams won’t set their rotations until mid-March in preparation for the regular season. Sure, we know with some certainty the first four who’ll fill out the regular season rotation but there is a competition for the remainder of the group. But their performance on the mound is ultimately what is going to be more important to watch, rather than what order they make those appearances.
The Nationals will handle the early Spring Training games just like most other organizations. In Jackson’s start next Saturday, for instance, he’ll likely only throw 2-3 innings. He’ll be followed by one of the remaining starting options in camp – a group that consists of Ross Detwiler, Tom Gorzelanny, Craig Stammen, and Yunesky Maya – who’ll also only pitch 2-3 innings. Eventually these guys will need to start working deeper into games, which will present a new set of logistics for the team to address. Some will throw in minor league games just to get work in. This could also be where we start to see guys like Gorzelanny and Stammen start to work into the bullpen mix, as the possibility exists they could make the team in that capacity. Maya seemed destined for the minor leagues, and could even be one of the first cuts once the team starts to trim down the roster.