VIERA, Fla. (CBSDC) — Coming as little surprise, Stephen Strasburg will be the opening day starter for the Nationals when they face the New York Mets on March 31 at Citi Field.
Manager Matt Williams made the announcement in his office after the Nats 2-0 loss to the Astros at Space Coast Stadium on Wednesday night.
It will be Strasburg’s third consecutive opening day start. Williams said Strasburg will be followed in the rotation by Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.
The rest of the rotation depends on the health of Doug Fister, who is scheduled to pitch Saturday, and the battle for the fifth spot which has come down to Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark and Chris Young.
Fister is recovering from elbow inflammation and the Nationals want to take it slowly with his progression as he tries to build toward his first start of the year.
Williams had his reasons for tapping Strasburg for the opening day honor.
“Just his experience there,” the first-year manager said. “He’s done it before. Certainly, with the way it’s structured, he is in line to do that and he’s earned it.”
Strasburg has pitched very well this spring. In nine innings, he has allowed just one run on five hits. He has walked three and struck out five.
Williams has watched Strasburg from the other side of the field but after getting a chance to manage him in spring training, the skipper knows Strasburg’s work ethic is off the charts.
“He wants to be better than he already is,” Williams said. “Coming into spring, one of his objectives was to hold base runners better and he’s working on those things here because he wants to be as good as he can possibly be.”
There was some thought that Jordan Zimmermann might get the call coming off a 19-win season.
“Of course he was considered,” said the skipper. “We have a number of guys that could fill that position and we spoke to Jordan and he’s good with wherever and whenever he pitches. Opening day is important but the rest of the games are important too so, he’s ready to pitch when it’s his turn.”
Detwiler in relief
As planned, Ross Detwiler came out of the bullpen and threw one inning against the Astros, walking one and striking out one.
Before the game, Detwiler spoke to reporters about being taken out of the competition for the fifth starter position and being put in the bullpen.
“I’ve still got to go out there, pitch and get outs,” Detwiler said. “I can’t really dwell on the negatives. I take as much positives as you can and go out and prove that you can get outs.”
Detwiler isn’t sure whether he will pitch in long relief, be used as a one-inning guy or a lefty specialist.
“They haven’t told me exactly what my role is going to be. That’s the one thing we’ll address one they tell me exactly where I fit in,” Detwiler said.