Earlier today, our Steven Walker touched on the fact that this Opening Day could be more special for Nationals fans. Now I’m going to back him up, because hey, the future is bright.
Today at 2:20 PM, Stephen Strasburg will trot out to the mound to pitch his first Opening Day. After battling through Tommy John surgery for part of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Strasburg is healthy and ready to be the dominant pitcher the Nats drafted him to be. But when Strasburg let’s go of that first pitch, it could mean much more than just the start of another season. When Strasburg fires that first fastball over home plate, it could be the first pitch of a new era in Washington.
This offseason saw much progress for a team that has won 80 games only twice since moving from Montreal before 2005. GM Mike Rizzo traded everything but the kitchen sink to acquire Oakland ace Gio Gonzalez, who will be a very dominant two, or one-B pitcher behind Strasburg in a rotation that is really starting to take shape. For the first time in Nationals pitching, they had the problem of “Which good pitcher is going to get the fifth spot?” In the past, it had been “Which sucky pitcher do we want to go first?” But now, the rotation is led by two aces (depending on your definition of ace), a quality innings-eater in Jordan Zimmermann, and then a four pitcher who went 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA last year. A four pitcher!
But then there is the offense. This year could be the first time that we see the offense we wanted to see in 2011. Ryan Zimmerman is healthy, and Jayson Werth will have the bats around him so that he is not the focus of the lineup for opposing pitchers. Werth is at his best when being used as a compliment, not when he is “the guy.” Hopefully Michael Morse makes a speedy recovery so he can get back to putting up the numbers that landed him fifth in MVP voting last year. If Ian Desmond can get his act together and Adam LaRoche can make a healthy recovery from shoulder surgery, this lineup has a chance to be one of the better offenses in the National League.
Then there is the fact that this is not the full Nationals team. “Michael, what are you talking about?” What I mean is that there is still multiple top prospects down in the minors developing. I’m sure you’ve heard of a certain phenom named Bryce Harper? But he’s not the only one. Although Harper has the best chance to be an impact guy this year, we can’t forget about 2011 draft picks Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, Matt Purke and Brian Goodwin. These guys all have a chance to be impact players down the road (2013-2014).
So, let’s get this Opening Day underway. The future looks bright, let’s play ball. Enjoy the season everyone, it looks to be a good one.