General manager Mike Rizzo used the word "disappointed" when describing the Nationals' efforts to obtain a top of the rotation starter during the winter.
Although there is still a chance a starting pitcher could be brought on from the free agent market or by trade prior to spring training, manager Jim Riggleman still feels pretty good about the 2011 starting rotation with the guys that are available now and back healthy from an injury-plagued 2010.
"I think our starting pitching will be significantly better," Riggleman said. "I think just with the year behind them from last year, Jordan Zimmermann coming back and hopefully being healthy from day one, and John Lannan pitching more like he did at he end of 2010, I think that would be huge for us if those two guys can do that."
Riggleman said that veteran Livan Hernandez has been able to stabilize the starting rotation, continuing his consistent, if not spectacular, pitching from year to year.
"Livo has been a solid guy," Riggleman said. "I think what we will really be looking at is a couple of those last spots: Yunesky Maya, Ross Detwiler and Jason Marquis. Those guys have got to show us a little more.
"Detwiler hasn't had a lot of opportunities yet. Certainly, he will be competing for a spot in spring training. He has always thrown the ball well for us, but doesn't have great results to show for it. He has pitched good for us the last two seasons."
"Maya was pitcher of the year in the Dominican Winter League. We certainly feel that he will win some ball games for us. I really like his competitiveness. I like the way he goes about it out there. He is an aggressive, hungry guy. It just didn't go well for him last year. I think it was a great sign for the Nationals. It will also pay dividends."
Riggleman believes that Chien Ming-Wang will not be ready by opening day because he is coming back from such a serious, football-style shoulder injury. He feels Wang could be ready to pitch by as early as May. If Wang is available and healthy then, it could be a great boost for the team after the first 30 or 40 games of the season.
"We are not going to try to rush (Wang) along after he put all that work in for well over a year," Riggleman said. "He would be a huge bonus to our ball club if he could come back in pitch for us in May. That would be like making a big trade because when he is good, he is as good as anybody."