The Washington Nationals recently sent their prodigy outfielder, Bryce Harper, down to Triple-A Syracuse so he could start the 2012 season in the minor leagues - we all saw that coming. Pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg was named the Nationals’ opening-day pitcher – no surprise there. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman signed a hefty contract extension last month that will allow him to stay with the Nationals until his kids are in college – no shocker there. However, the Nats made a move yesterday that surprised pretty much everyone: They sent pitcher John Lannan down to Syracuse to join Harper in the minors.
When Nationals’ starter, Chien-Ming Wang pulled his hamstring trying to field a ball during a Spring Training game against the Yankees a few weeks ago, Lannan breathed a sigh of relief. The Nationals had the good problem of having too many potential starting pitchers, and the rumors had been circulating that Lannan was going to be on the trading block. However, because of Wang’s injury, Lannan was able to pitch more innings, and he performed pretty well (and probably thought that life was looking pretty good).
Lefty Ross Detwiler, the Nationals’ 2007 amateur draft pick, had pretty much accepted the fact that he would be relegated to the bullpen for long relief. With Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, Jordan Zimmermann, and Strasburg comprising the Nats’ pitching rotation, it was assumed that Lannan would fill the fifth spot vacated temporarily by Wang. Not so. As Lannan was being sent down to Syracuse, Detwiler was named the team’s fifth starter. Detwiler is 6-14 with a 4.07 ERA in 39 appearances with the Nationals during the regular season, including 29 starts. This spring though, Lannan had a 5.14 ERA while Detwiler’s was 3.06. We can only hope that Detwiler continues to pitch well in the few starts he’ll have before Wang returns from his injury – don’t let us down, Ross!
So Opening Day for the Nationals is tomorrow afternoon against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, and yes, Strasburg will be the Nats’ starter. With slugger Michael Morse on the 15-day Disabled List, the Nats need leadoff hitter Ian Desmond and second-baseman Danny Espinosa to get on base. Last year’s disappointment, Jayson Werth (who batted only .232 in 2011), had a pretty decent Spring Training and Ryan Zimmerman is healthy and looking good. The Nationals’ bats need to do some serious producing, because there’s only so much that their pitchers can do if the offense’s bats are asleep. Let’s hope that beginning the season at the “Friendly Confines” of Chicago gets the Nationals off to a good start this season!