Nationals notes: Second-half rotation, draft picks, Romero

Good afternoon. A few quick Nationals notes for you:

* The Nationals have set their rotation for this weekend against the Braves, and in effect, lined up their entire pitching staff to start the second half. Livan Hernandez will pitch the first game of the second half in Atlanta tomorrow night, followed by left-handers John Lannan and Tom Gorzelanny. Manager Davey Johnson had already said Jordan Zimmermann will be the fifth starter after the break, so that would mean Jason Marquis pitches fourth. To answer a couple questions about why the starters are lined up that way, I’d guess it’s because Johnson wants to throw his best matchups at the Braves, since most of their best hitters (Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Nate McLouth) are lefties. The Nationals are chasing the Braves in the division, so this series is one of the more crucial they’ll play in the second half, and it makes sense to line up for that one.

* The team announced this morning it has signed four draft picks from the 2011 class: right-handed pitchers Taylor Hill (sixth round), Greg Holt (eighth round) and Dixon Anderson (ninth round) and left-handed pitcher Nicholas Lee (18th round). The team has now agreed to terms with 22 players from this year’s draft.

* Finally, the Nationals released left-handed reliever J.C. Romero this morning, cutting the veteran loose after five appearances at Triple-A Syracuse. Romero had allowed one run in seven innings, but ESPN.com reported on Wednesday that he wanted to be let out of his deal with the Nationals so he could sign a similar deal with the Yankees. Or, as he once told reporters in Minneapolis after a rough outing, “J.C.’s got a plane to catch.” (Kudos to my good buddy Dave Campbell, who covers the Twins for the Associated Press, for passing along that quote.)

I’ll have more stats talk with Davey Johnson later today. For now, I’m off to look for a pair of Vibram FiveFingers shoes - I’m thinking about joining the minimalist running craze after reading Chris McDougall’s “Born to Run” this week. It came highly recommended from former Nats beat writer (and fellow marathoner) Chico Harlan - a man who knows a thing or two about great writing - and I’d second the recommendation; some incredible reportage and storytelling in that book, and it’ll make you think differently about running than you probably ever have.

Talk to you later today.