WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Washington Nationals have yet to name an Opening Day starter, and it seems like they won’t before they absolutely have to. The team is known for leaving positions uncertain until the last possible minute to avoid any change that may occur before then.
According to reporter Chelsea Janes, Manager Dusty Baker said Wednesday he would not name an Opening Day starter yet, though with Max Scherzer back in the fold and Tanner Roark soon to follow, the Nationals’ rotation is now lined up. Assuming this remains the plan, Stephen Strasburg’s turn would fall on Opening Day, a week from Monday. With that in mind, Gio Gonzalez’s turn would fall on that Wednesday, the Nationals’ second game of the season. If everything goes well with his finger, Scherzer’s turn would come on Thursday, the third game of the season.
After that, the Nationals have decisions to make. In Tuesday night’s World Baseball Classic semifinal, Roark threw 50 pitches in his start for the United States. While he still needs to build up, he’s been put on the same schedule as Gonzalez, who threw in the Nationals’ Grapefruit League game that day, said Janes.
On Thursday against the Mets, Erick Fedde will pitch, presumably in Roark’s spot. If Roark returned to assume that spot the next time through the rotation, he would be on an every-five-days schedule to make his first start in the fourth game of the season, the Friday of opening week, according to the Washington Post. If that’s the case, the Nationals should have time to get him where he needs to be. Meanwhile, Joe Ross would not have his turn until the next weekend.
Strasburg has started on Opening Day every year from 2012 to 2014, so it seems likely he will start this upcoming season. Since then, Scherzer has taken the ball first, something he will not be ready to do this year despite his strong showing in his first Grapefruit League game of the season Wednesday, said The Washington Post.
“Whoever it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be great,” said Scherzer, making a point to not name Strasburg in particular. “We’ve got a great team. I’ve only started two Opening Days, and now this will be my ninth Opening Day, so I’ve been on the sidelines before watching other pitchers pitch. It’s not the end of the world to me.”
Scherzer said he was more disappointed in not pitching in the World Baseball Classic with his former manager Jim Leyland and former pitching coach Jeff Jones than he will be to not start on Opening Day, said Janes of the Washington Post.
In 20 Opening Day innings, Strasburg is pitching to a 2.25 ERA with 18 strikeouts. When the Nationals host the Miami Marlins, he will most likely get his fourth career Opening Day start April 3. However, since the Nationals tend to be secretive and wait until the last minute, the plan could change and nothing is official.