Washington Nationals: 5 story lines for Spring Training

WEST PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 7: Pablo Sandoval
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 7: Pablo Sandoval /
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In what we thought would be a healthy battle for fifth starter is apparently a non-starter. In front of season-ticket holders, Mike Rizzo said A.J. Cole has the job.

For Cole, you cannot get a stronger vote of confidence. Unless Erick Fedde, Edwin Jackson or Tommy Milone stun people in Florida, Cole knows there is no longer a Syracuse shuttle waiting for him. Now is the time to relax and ready for 30 decent starts and shoot for 180 innings.

Speculation shifted to a Fedde trade once Rizzo tipped his hand. If there is a deal coming for Realmuto, Fedde will be in it. Not an easy way for him to start his 2018. He needed an out pitch last year with the Nats and Washington hopes can work on one in West Palm Beach.

The surprising return of Jackson gives Martinez insurance in case of injury or if Cole implodes. Although Jackson is not a solid choice if things go south, he is a known quantity and can eat innings if needed.

Milone is this year’s reclamation project. A contact pitcher in an era of power hitting does not bode well. His road to Washington is long, and the leash is short.

Expect Fedde and Jackson to get their fair share of work. If the Nats experiment with a six-man rotation or need to fill an injury, they are capable of a shot.

Still, a strong spring and season from Cole plays well in the future. Gio Gonzalez is a free agent and Joe Ross will take his time recovering from Tommy John.