Strasburg to debut Friday, rotation order takes shape (Nats win)

JUPITER, Fla. - Davey Martinez isn't about to announce his rotation order to begin the season. There's too much time and too many things that could happen to throw a wrench into his plans.

But with all of the regular starters now lined up here in Florida, it's not hard to extrapolate things out and see how it all projects for March 26 and beyond.

Strasburg-Dealing-White-sidebar.jpgThe key revelations that came today from the Nationals manager: Stephen Strasburg will make his spring debut Friday against the Rays after throwing a bullpen session this morning. And Patrick Corbin, after throwing off the mound this morning, is hoping to make his first start of the spring Saturday against the Cardinals.

"Depending on how he feels, hopefully this weekend he's out there," Martinez said of Corbin. "I'm going off how he feels and what he and (pitching coach Paul Menhart) are doing. But he says he feels good."

Strasburg and Corbin were held back a bit from the rest of the club's starters to begin camp, not because of any physical ailments but because each is bouncing back from the first extended October run of his career. Max Scherzer and Aníbal Sánchez each pitched in the World Series in 2012 with the Tigers and felt like they were ready to go from the outset when they reported to camp.

Sánchez is making his first start this afternoon against the Cardinals. Joe Ross, whose first outing was rained out, is scheduled to start Wednesday against the Yankees in Tampa (though there's again rain in the forecast).

Scherzer, who tossed two scoreless innings Saturday against the Astros before the rain hit, is lined up to return to the mound Thursday night, also against the Astros, this time against his former Tigers teammate Justin Verlander.

Austin Voth, one of the contenders for the No. 5 starter's job, will back up Strasburg and pitch out of the bullpen Friday.

So, if you do the math, you'll end up with Scherzer starting opening day at the Mets, with Strasburg and Corbin following him at Citi Field. Sánchez would start the March 30 series opener at the Marlins, with the No. 5 starter the following night and Scherzer pitching the finale. That would then leave Strasburg to start the highly anticipated April 2 home opener (featuring the World Series championship banner-raising) against the Mets.

With three off days built into the first 15 days of the regular season, the Nationals have the ability to tinker around with their rotation. They could skip the No. 5 starter. They could give some guys (or everyone) an extra day off between starts.

Given how cautious they want to be early on with starters' workloads, the notion of giving everyone extra days of rest is appealing.

"We've had discussions about that already," Martinez said. "Plus with all the days off, we'll see how it lines up. But as of right now, I'd like to give guys that extra day. But we'll see. I talked to Max yesterday at length, and he said he feels really, really good. And you know Max. Every five days. As we get closer, we'll see where he's at."

Other pregame notes ...

* Ryan Zimmerman may make his spring debut this weekend. The 35-year-old first baseman is the only regular position player who hasn't appeared in a game yet, but that's by design and he insists he's physically feeling "great." As Martinez said of Zimmerman, who notoriously dislikes spring training: "If he plays in February, as we all know, it's a victory."

* Will Harris threw what Martinez described as a "heavy bullpen" session this morning and is expected to make his game debut Thursday.

* Welington Castillo, who was scratched from the Grapefruit League opener with a sore right shoulder, has resumed throwing. He's expected to begin attempting throws from behind the plate to second base soon. Martinez said he'd like to get the veteran catcher some at-bats as DH in the next day or two.

Update: Sánchez completed a solid spring debut with two innings of one-run ball this afternoon. The veteran surrendered a leadoff double to Kolten Wong in the bottom of the first and watched as he eventually scored, though without benefit of a hit. Sánchez allowed one other hit (an infield single on a high chopper) but otherwise stayed out of trouble. He struck out both Matt Wieters and Harrison Bader during a 25-pitch (18-strike) outing. The Nats got a run in the second when Emilio Bonifácio laced a two-out RBI single to right, scoring Michael A. Taylor (who led off with a double). Then Juan Soto did his first Juan Soto Thing of the spring. He mashed a pitch from right-hander Seth Elledge to left-center and over the wall for an opposite-field homer, his first of 2020. The Nats lead 3-1 in the third.

Update II: After a couple of quiet days at the plate to begin the spring, the Nationals' bats have busted out today. They've scored seven runs through six innings. Soto followed up his third-inning homer with a fourth-inning RBI single. Taylor added a sacrifice fly. Then in the sixth, Raudy Read drew a bases-loaded walk and Mac Williamson grounded into an RBI fielder's choice. The bullpen has given up a pair of home runs, though, one off Hunter Strickland, the other off Jhonatan German. So it's 7-6 Nats in the sixth.

Update III: Nats win, 9-6. It took nearly four hours to complete. That kind of a day.

After strong finish to 2019, Sánchez seeks fast s...
Lineups: Nats vs. Cardinals in Jupiter

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