Injuries creating openings

VIERA, Fla. - Gio Gonzalez will make his final spring training start this afternoon against the Cardinals, a team that he's beginning to get pretty familiar with.

And not in a good way.

This will be the lefty's third start against St. Louis in a five-game span, with all three of those games coming in Jupiter at Roger Dean Stadium. Gonzalez isn't thrilled with the way the spring schedule has aligned, as the Cardinals will have gotten a fairly good look at his repertoire over the last month.

Not only might Gonzalez be a little tired of facing the Cardinals, he has to also be a little sick of the Roger Dean Stadium facilities. After today, the park, which is shared by the Cardinals and Marlins, will have hosted four of Gonzalez's last five starts.

The Nationals' No. 2 starter will look to close out an up-and-down spring on a strong note after allowing 10 hits and eight earned runs in 3 2/3 innings against St. Louis two starts ago, and then giving up three runs with six strikeouts over five innings his last time out.

Despite all this talk over the last couple weeks about who might earn the Nationals' last couple roster spots, the organization might not have many tough decisions to make on that front after all.

If you had told me even two weeks ago that Roger Bernadina, Brett Carroll, Xavier Nady, Chad Tracy and Ryan Mattheus would all make the Nats' opening day roster, I would've called you crazy. But that's what will almost certainly happen due to all the injuries which have hit this team lately.

With Michael Morse, Rick Ankiel, Drew Storen and Chien-Ming Wang appearing likely to start the season on the DL, seemingly every healthy player the Nationals have left in camp will end up heading north with the team in a couple days.

So much for needing to decide between Carroll or Tracy. No longer do the Nats need to determine whether it's better to start Nady at Triple-A to give him some more time to get into a groove before bringing him up to the majors.

It's time to throw 'em all on the 25-man roster and see what sticks.

"(We've) just kind of had some strange injuries that, all of them, I'm not quite sure what brought them on or how they happened," manager Davey Johnson said. "I've never seen a spring with that many guys from Storen to Morse to (Adam) LaRoche to Ankiel, put it on the list. It's nothing real serious, but it's something you don't want to grow into something serious."

The good news on the pitching side of things is that the Nats have so much more depth this year than in seasons past. John Lannan can slide in as Johnson's fifth starter with Wang battling a hamstring injury and the Nats can decide between Mattheus and veteran righty Chad Durbin (who has had an excellent spring) for the bullpen spot cleared by Storen's injury. That's a luxury that they haven't had in past years.

Things are a little different when it comes to position players, but while Nady has been in camp just two weeks, he brings defensive versatility and some pop in his bat from the right-handed side. Tracy won't hit for average, but Johnson has talked about wanting more of a left-handed presence on his team, and Tracy (who leads the team with 15 RBIs) brings that.

There might not be all that much roster intrigue over the next few days, but that's not the worst thing in the world. Despite a host of injuries, the Nats feel confident they have enough talent in camp this year to hold down the fort until the battered and bruised return to action.

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