With a final flurry of cuts this afternoon, the Nationals have effectively, if not officially, set their 25-man roster for Opening Day. They picked Garrett Mock to be the final starting pitcher over Scott Olsen, optioning the left-hander to Triple-A Syracuse despite his strong outing on Friday. Mock, the 26-year-old right-hander who started the spring well but struggled at the end of it, nonetheless won the spot over Olsen. He’ll actually be the team’s fourth starter, pitching on Friday in New York.
The Nationals will add Livan Hernandez to the roster for Sunday’s game in New York, but since he isn’t on the 40-man roster yet, they’ll be able to carry an eighth reliever for the first five games of the year.
Olsen was expected to make the rotation earlier this spring if he was 100 percent healthy, and struck out seven against the Red Sox on Friday. But manager Jim Riggleman said he didn’t think Olsen was completely recovered from shoulder surgery last year.
“He’s just not quite there yet in terms of fully 100 percent,” Riggleman said. “He’s really close. And yesterday’s performance is evidence of that. Even though Garrett Mock had a little bit of a rough spring, we’re still excited about what he can do for us.”
Mock said he doesn’t feel any pressure to perform or lose the spot, adding his expectations of himself are as high as anything the Nationals would put on him. Scouts rave about his stuff, but he’s yet to put it together consistently in the majors. One scout predicted Mock would get the job over Olsen, partially because general manager Mike Rizzo drafted him in Arizona, and the former scout is fond of players he discovered, as most scouts are.
The Nationals’ eight-reliever arrangement will likely only last until they need to add Hernandez to the major-league roster. Hernandez hasn’t yet been added to the 40-man roster, and the Nationals will have to take someone off of it to get Batista and Willy Taveras on the 40-man roster.
So here’s how the full Opening Day roster looks: