A camp filled with minimal roster drama

VIERA, Fla. - We know how John Lannan reacted to being named the Nationals' fifth starter.

How did Ross Detwiler respond to the news he'd officially be getting his work out of the Nats' bullpen to start the season? He carefully answered questions yesterday with a slight smile on his face, but said he'll need some time to adjust to being used in relief.

"I'm a big routine person," Detwiler said. "That's what's kind of throwing me off right now: I'm not on the same routine I've been on. That's something I have to adjust to."

Detwiler might not be thrilled about being on the outside of the rotation looking in, but he can be sure that he has a spot on the Nationals' 25-man opening day roster locked up. He'll be one of the Nats' two long relievers in the 'pen, along with fellow lefty Tom Gorzelanny.

One thing that's been interesting about this spring compared to years past for the Nationals is that there have been very few legitimate position battles in camp.

Even the competition between Lannan and Detwiler for the final spot in the rotation once Chien-Ming Wang got injured wasn't much of a competition; it was clear all along that the Nats were planning on going with Lannan - the more experienced, more expensive lefty.

All four spots above Lannan in the rotation were pretty much set, the seven bullpen spots were all but determined (with Drew Storen established as the Nats' closer) and even with all the Bryce Harper hoopla going on early in camp, it was pretty clear which eight position players would be running out to take the field on opening day.

Even the battle for the last bench role has been an unexciting one - Brett Carroll has been a favorite of Davey Johnson throughout camp, and when Carroll expressed a willingness to serve as the Nats' emergency catcher, he got even closer to locking up a spot on the roster.

Of course, injuries to Storen and left fielder Michael Morse have complicated things a bit, but even if those two need to open the season on the DL, deciding who would replace them on the roster would be a fairly straightforward process.

Johnson indicated yesterday that while reliever Chad Durbin has thrown well this spring, Ryan Mattheus has the inside track for the roster spot freed up if Storen is placed on the DL at the start of the regular season.

If Morse's lat injury lands him on the DL, meanwhile, the Nats could keep Jason Michaels to provide a little pop off the bench.

Roger Bernadina, Carroll, Michaels and even infielders Mark DeRosa and Steve Lombardozzi could see time in left field in Morse's stead. While that group would get nowhere close to replacing Morse's power and run production, the Nats don't expect their cleanup hitter to be out all that much longer.

Chad Tracy still has a slim chance of securing a spot on the 25-man roster, but with Adam LaRoche looking like he'll be able to play through an injury to his left foot, the Nats might not need another left-handed-hitting first baseman.

In past years, the Nats have opened camp with a number of roster spots and starting positions up for grabs. This year's been a little different.

And I bet they're OK with that.

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