As expected, Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg will start the Nats' Grapefruit League opener. Is it as indication that he will start the season opener? Yes. The Nats kickoff their Grapefruit League scheduled this Saturday, February 23rd, against division rival New York Mets. More on Strasburg's Saturday start. Strasburg is currently tweaking the way he throws his sinking fastball.
One thing about Strasburg is, he is now a veteran and is a leader. He embraces the expectations game with the Nats.
“We have to embrace it,” Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg told WDBJ7’s Travis Wells. Click here to watch the complete interview with Strasburg. “Where we were a couple of years ago, obviously we can focus on last year and how well we did or continue plugging forward. We're all still relatively young and we've all got a lot left in the tank. We're gonna come out guns blazin' and hopefully we'll tackle the challenge.”
As we reported a few days ago, Gio Gonzalez will not join Team USA in the World Baseball Classic in the opening round, but will join Team USA in the second round. He will make three Grapefruit League starts for the Nationals before departing to the WBC. Those starts are scheduled to be: February 25, March 2, and March 7. Joe Torre is ready to manage Team USA at the WBC.
Speaking of starting pitchers, the Nationals pulled off a great signing in the off-season, choosing to let starter Edwin Jackson sign elsewhere (Chicago Cubs) while upgrading over Jackson to Dan Haren. The move drew rave reviews. Haren is coming off a significant hip injury and the Nats are risking that Haren is recovered and will return to his dominating form that put him near the top of starting pitching ranks. Good read from Tom Boswell on Haren. More on Haren from MLB.com. And more on Haren.
Bryce Harper is entering his second season with the Nationals after securing the National League Rookie of the Year. Timothy Holland writes that he is not concerned about any sophomore jinx for Harper.
The Nats brought in former pitcher Micah Owings for a tryout as a position player. Owings missed all of last season from elbow surgery, but is making the switch to position (first base) because of curiosity and desire to play in the field. He also has awed teammates with his power hitting. The transition to position player is a dream of Owings that he began contemplating last spring training. Perhaps the only bump in the road for Owings will be the team that chose to give him a non-roster invitee opportunity. The Nats are loaded at starters and depth and it may be very difficult to crack the Nats roster. Tyler Moore is more than likely a guarantee on the roster as a backup outfielder, but also plays first base and will serve to backup starter Adam LaRoche.
Speaking of LaRoche, he gives credit to Davey Johnson on helping get his deal done with the Nats.
The Nats are pleased with the progress of C Wilson Ramos, as he returns from ACL surgery. Ramos is expected to be ready for opening day, but will likely be transitioned into more playing time along with fellow catcher Kurt Suzuki.
Christian Garcia is fighting for a spot on the 25 man roster. One thing about Garcia is, no matter what, he is pleased with the faith the franchise placed in him, when acquiring him after his release from the Yankees. Garcia was one of the most promising pitchers in the Yankees organization until he got caught up in major arm probels. Those problems resulted in two Tommy John surgeries in four years. Gracia provided some explosive relief late last season for the Nationals, but manager Davey Johnson wants Garcia to transition back to being a starting pitcher.
Another read on the Kyle Lohse rumors and the Nats.