Nats fielding a possible opening day lineup tonight live on MASN (with notes)

VIERA, Fla. - Those of you who will be watching tonight's Nationals-Astros game on MASN (airing live at 6 p.m.) will get a treat. Manager Matt Williams is running out a lineup loaded with regulars.

In fact, Williams said that his lineup tonight could end up being "close" to the starting lineup that he runs out on opening day less than two weeks from now.

Things could and will certainly change based on lefty/righty pitching matchups and even the team that the Nats are playing, Williams said, but tonight's batting order could be the basis of what we see to begin the regular season.

Here are tonight's lineups:

For the Nats
CF Denard Span
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Jayson Werth
LF Bryce Harper
C Wilson Ramos
1B Adam LaRoche
2B Anthony Rendon
RHP Taylor Jordan

For the Astros
CF Dexter Fowler
2B Jose Altuve
C Jason Castro
LF Marc Krauss
1B Jon Singleton
RF LJ Hoes
3B Marwin Gonzalez
SS Jonathan Villar
RHP Jarred Cosart

Meanwhile, Williams said that right-hander Doug Fister will rejoin the Nats' spring rotation on Saturday, when he's scheduled to work three innings and 45 pitches against the Marlins.

Fister threw in a minor league game on Monday, working two innings. That was his first time in a game format since being shut down with inflammation in his right elbow after making his spring debut on March 2.

If all goes well on Saturday, Fister then can get one more Grapefruit League start next Thursday, when he would likely go four innings and around 60 pitches. The Nats will then need to decide how to try and slot Fister into their rotation at the start of the regular season. A couple of early off-days will give them some flexibility there.

Williams also added that he didn't feel the Nats did reliever Luis Ayala, who was granted his release today, "a good service" this spring. Williams said that a couple of the spots that Ayala was put in were less than ideal - he had to pitch with just two outfielders when the Nats went with a five-infielder look against Atlanta one game, and then got stuck with an elevated pitch count in a rough inning against the Tigers - which didn't set the right-hander up for great success.

Still, the Nats didn't see Ayala making their club, and opted to let him go now in order to allow him a chance to latch on with another team.

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