Washington Nationals: Previewing the Spring Training position battles
By Blake Finney
The Washington Nationals rotation struggled a lot last season, outside of Max Scherzer. The fifth spot in the rotation, in particular, just seemed to be a revolving door at times and there’s bound to be a competition for that role this spring.
About a week ago, it looked like it would be a full-blown competition between the likes of Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, Henderson Alvarez, and Kyle McGowin. But then the Nationals signed Jeremy Hellickson to a one-year $1.3 million deal which instantly makes him the favorite.
Last year, the right-hander went 5-3 with a 3.45 ERA last with the Nats in 19 starts after joining the team late in Spring Training. But injuries cut his season shorter than he would’ve liked, missing time with a hamstring injury and then subsequently a wrist sprain later in the year.
But when he was healthy, he was effective on the Nats’ new plan to restrict him from facing hitters a third time as much as possible. At times, this taxed the bullpen, but it always gave their ballclub a chance to win the games he started, which is all you can ask of a fifth starter.
Now that he’s been brought back on a major league deal, that likely will mean Ross and Fedde will start in Triple-A to serve as pitching depth, which the team didn’t have last season. Barring something catastrophic, this is Hellickson’s job to lose this spring, and it’s hard to expect him to lose it.
Prediction: Jeremy Hellickson