Nats to announce fifth starter after Saturday exhibition game (Frandsen signing official)

JUPITER, Fla. - The final spot in the Nationals bullpen has been determined. It’ll go to right-hander Aaron Barrett.

The final spot on the bench has been set. Once his signing is made official, utility man Kevin Frandsen will be the Nats’ fifth bench guy.

Soon, all that will be left for the Nats to do before opening day will be to settle on their last starting pitcher. And that decision won’t be announced until after Saturday’s exhibition game against the Tigers in D.C.

Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan are the two candidates for the final open rotation spot, and both right-handers will pitch in Saturday’s game, manager Matt Williams said today.

Roark will likely get the start on Saturday (read into that however you choose), and Jordan will also get in a few innings. Those two won’t combine to go the entire game, but they will get their work in as they build toward the start of the regular season.

“There’s been no decision made. ... They both need to pitch,” Williams said. “We certainly need to see, regardless of decision, see them both pitch. And it’s good prep for both of them heading into the season. We do have some guys who aren’t going to pitch that day, some of our relievers won’t pitch on that day. They’ll go tomorrow and then have some days to get prepared. So it’s a little bit a function of our staff.

“They’re both deserving of pitching in that game, and we’ll make that decision.”

Part of the reason the Nats are waiting to determine their final starter is that they want to make sure that Doug Fister makes it out of tomorrow’s minor league game feeling good. Fister missed time earlier this spring due to right elbow inflammation, and while he’s come through his recent mound appearances just fine, the Nats want to make sure he’s good after tomorrow’s start before declaring either Roark or Jordan the final guy in the rotation.

It’s likely been a long last week or so for Roark and Jordan as they wait to find out whether they’ll start the season in the big leagues or at Triple-A Syracuse. The Nats coaches and front office staffers have been discussing the final rotation spot for some time now, and Williams says those conversations have been healthy.

“I don’t know if there’s a difference of opinion,” Williams said. “I think the more accurate statement would be, they both make a really good case. So could you go wrong if it’s one over the other? I don’t know if you could. But we have to look at, certainly, all of our thoughts and everybody’s suggestions. We do really approach this as a group. And everybody’s free to give their opinion, and we take those opinions seriously. And we’ll make our decision. But it truly is a group effort.

“(It’s) been fun. It’s everybody sitting there looking at it and saying, ‘Here’s the positives that I see, here’s the negatives that I see.’ It’s even knowing the kid more than another guy, and stating it and making sure that we all get that out in the open. It’s important to do that. And we’ll continue to do that with decisions that we make throughout the season, too.”

Update: The Nationals announced that they have voided their previous option of right-hander Ross Ohlendorf and have placed him on the 60-day disabled list with a right lumbar strain.

This move takes Ohlendorf off the Nats’ 40-man roster, clearing a spot for Kevin Frandsen, once his deal is officially announced.

Ohlendorf was limited by side and back injuries this spring, and made just two Grapefruit League appearances, allowing two runs on four hits in an inning of work.

Ohlendorf had been optioned to Triple-A Syracuse six days ago, but he’s now been put on the DL.

Update II: The Frandsen deal is officially done.

The Nats announced that they’ve signed the 31-year-old to a major league contract. Frandsen will join the Nats for tomorrow’s Grapefruit League finale in Port St. Lucie against the Mets.

Frandsen is a career .259 hitter in 402 big league contests spanning seven seasons with the Phillies, Angels and Giants. Against left-handed pitching, Frandsen is a career .289 hitter with a .343 on-base percentage and .435 slugging percentage.

The Nats now have 28 active players in big league camp.

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