Why Zimmermann could be the opening day starter in 2012

The 2012 regular season schedule has the Washington Nationals beginning on the road at historic Wrigley Field with three games in Chicago and then three more contests in New York against the Mets.

2012 has been marked as the year Stephen Strasburg would pitch for the Nationals for the first time in the month of April in his career, and may be the season we see No. 1 hitting prospect Bryce Harper make it to the big leagues.

There were a few raised eyebrows when the schedule came out wondering if the Nationals might adjust their rotation with presumably Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann being No. 1 and No. 2 in the rotation out of the blocks.

If they remained as No. 1 and No. 2 in the rotation leaving Viera, Fla., then Strasburg would start Thursday, April 5 in Chicago.

After a scheduled day off, Zimmermann would get the call Saturday at Wrigley Field. That would mean Strasburg would make his second start also on the road, April 10 or 11.

But, that would also mean Strasburg would start only two games out of the initial 11-game Nationals homestand at Nationals Park against the Reds, Astros and Marlins.

For arguments sake, if the Nationals switch Zimmermann and Strasburg to begin the season, Strasburg would be on schedule to start only one game on the road, Saturday, April 7 at Chicago, out of the first six games away from D.C.

Then, Strasburg could be penciled in for April 12, 17 and 22, all at home. So, instead of hometown fans seeing Strasburg pitch twice in those first 11 games at Nationals Park, they could get the opportunity of viewing Strasburg on a Thursday, Tuesday and a Sunday.

And, if national television gets involved, by moving Strasburg to the Saturday, April 7 start, the entire nation could view Strasburg pitch his first game of 2012.

This could also allow Strasburg to delay his 160-inning pitch limit a few days, and that may come back to help the Nationals in September as they look to play meaningful games in the final month and drive for a playoff spot. Zimmermann also would have more innings to play with next season, a full 20 months removed from Tommy John surgery.

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