Washington Nationals: Handicapping the race for 5th starter

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 04: A.J. Cole
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 04: A.J. Cole /
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The Washington Nationals find themselves in a four-way race for the fifth starter. Who breaks out to win? Or, is there a surprise in store?

In the last month before the 2018 season starts for the Washington Nationals, many questions are off the board.

The club has a new manager and coaching staff. Brandon Kintzler returns to solidify a deep bullpen. Matt Adams fills Adam Lind’s role on the bench.  Adam Eaton will play left and lead off.

However, two questions remain on the table heading into the pre-season. Who shares catching duties with Matt Wieters? And, who wins the fifth starter position in West Palm Beach?

Although Pedro Severino is the presumptive other catcher, the race for pitcher is wide open.

Unless there is another twist in the road we cannot see, the six weeks of Grapefruit League fun turn into a four-way horse race with no clear favorite. But, unlike last season’s race for closer, the need to have this wrapped by the time Washington heads to Cincinnati on March 29th is not urgent.

Yes, you want to start a new season with all the puzzle pieces in place. The difference between the two auditions comes with Washington’s position within the National League East. They are the sperm whale sitting in a goldfish pond.

Unless Cinderella owns a pair of glass slippers with a Philadelphia Phillies logo monogrammed in sequins, the Nats will win the division with ease. (Braves and Mets slippers supplied by request, Marlins footwear will appear in their home run sculpture or a Derek Jeter gift bag.)

Although modern scheduling requires five starters, logic dictates the role can remain open.

Still, we have an honest-to-goodness race and roster spots to settle. Who leaves Florida with the job?