The biggest thing to take from the Washington Nationals Spring Training rotation isn’t that Stephen Strasburg gets the “opening day” start. That much could be expected and many people wouldn’t complain. But, the fact that Jordan Zimmermann gets the ball in the second game over Gio Gonzalez shows that Davey Johnson and the Nationals are preparing for life without their Cy Young candidate from a year ago.
Now, Major League Baseball hasn’t come down on Gonzalez yet, but they haven’t exonerated him either. By going Strasburg-Zimmermann-Gonzalez, it doesn’t close the door on Gio starting the second game of the season (or even the first game) as it is early enough in Spring Training that pitching schedules can be moved around. However, it does prepare for the fact that he may not be available come opening day.
Reading this much into anything this early in Spring Training is grounds for commitment, but it is at the very least interesting. And the lack of an announced Opening Day starter is something else that’s interesting when most teams have already made the announcement. Having choices of players to start on Opening Day is a good thing, to be sure, but it’s also telling that the Nationals are preparing for life without Gio. Which is a good thing because getting caught off guard would be a worst-case scenario.
Making any decision based on Spring Training statistics can be a recipe for disaster, but there are several key things to look for as games get underway this weekend. But reading between the lines of this early decision does make it seem like the Nationals are preparing for life without Gonzalez until they know one way or the other what Major League Baseball’s decision will be on him and the other Biogenesis-linked players.