The Nationals will open the season with only four starting pitchers but six bench players.
The club announced its opening day roster this morning, and it does not include Joe Ross or Jeremy Guthrie. Ross, who had been tabbed all along as the No. 5 starter, was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. Guthrie, who was trying to make it as a long reliever, was reassigned to minor league camp, but he’s expected to report to Syracuse to begin the season.
With only four starting pitchers (Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Gio González, Max Scherzer) for now, the Nationals are carrying six bench players (catcher José Lobaton, infielders Stephen Drew and Wilmer Difo, outfielders Chris Heisey and Michael A. Taylor, first baseman/outfielder Adam Lind).
Their seven-man bullpen does not include a true long man but is not lacking in power arms, with four right-handers (Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley, Joe Blanton, Koda Glover) and three lefties (Sammy Solís, Enny Romero, Oliver Pérez).
The regular starting lineup, though the exact batting order has not been announced yet: catcher Matt Wieters, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, second baseman Daniel Murphy, shortstop Trea Turner, third baseman Anthony Rendon, left fielder Jayson Werth, center fielder Adam Eaton, right fielder Bryce Harper.
The decision to send Ross to the minors to open the season may come as a surprise. But it’s not a reflection of performance, rather of the Nationals’ current roster needs.
With three early off-days, the team needs a fifth starter only once in the season’s first three weeks: April 9 at Philadelphia. The No. 5 starter isn’t needed again after that until April 22 at New York.
Given that, the Nationals can open the year with an extra bench player (providing some insurance for Rendon, who is dealing with a bruised left calf) and then call up a starting pitcher for the April 9 game against the Phillies. That pitcher might well be Guthrie, who despite not making the club after posting a 2.41 ERA this spring, has agreed to report to the minors and not opt-out of his contract.
Ross, who went five innings in Thursday’s Grapefruit League finale, could make up to three starts at Syracuse before rejoining the Nationals rotation later this month.
Here’s the full 25-man roster to open the season...
CATCHERS (2): José Lobaton, Matt Wieters
INFIELDERS (7): Wilmer Difo, Stephen Drew, Adam Lind, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman
OUTFIELDERS (5): Adam Eaton, Bryce Harper, Chris Heisey, Michael A. Taylor, Jayson Werth
ROTATION (4): Gio González, Tanner Roark, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg
BULLPEN (7): Joe Blanton, Koda Glover, Shawn Kelley, Oliver Perez, Enny Romero, Sammy Solís, Blake Treinen