Chad Gaudin wants to start
When the Nationals take the field tomorrow in their first exhibition game of the spring training, against the Mets at 1:10 p.m., Chad Gaudin will do something he hasn't done for more than a year: walk to the mound and start a major league game.
The Nationals signed Gaudin to a minor league contract this offseason so he could compete for a starting spot, with a backup plan of making him a long reliever. Last year, Gaudin appeared in 42 games for the A's and Yankees, all in relief, and went 1-4 with a 5.65 ERA.
Gaudin's layoff from starting has not affected the way he views himself. Asked if he considers himself a starter or reliever, Gaudin, 27, seemed puzzled by the question. "Starter," he said, instantly. "I'm starting a game tomorrow." This offseason, Gaudin chose the Nationals' offer over a handful of others because they told him he would have an opportunity to compete for a starting spot.
Manager Jim Riggleman described Gaudin as "a classic overachiever." He is 5-10, 190 pounds and wrings all the power he can out of his frame. His fastball last year, according to FanGraps.com, averaged 91.1 miles per hour. The Rays drafted him in the 34th round in 2001, and he made his major league debut, at 20, two years later. The Nationals are his sixth organization. That career path hasn't affected the way he views himself, either.
"I feel like I'm a better starter," Gaudin said. "If it comes down to it, and somebody beats me out for a starting spot, okay."
In 75 career starts, Gaudin has a 4.72 ERA and a 1.66 strikeout-to-walk rate. In 183 relief appearances, Gaudin has a 4.43 ERA and a 1.72 strikeout-to-walk rate.
While Tom Gorzelanny seemingly has the inside track for the Nationals' fifth starter spot, Gaudin fits in with a group pushing him that includes Ross Detwiler, Chien-Ming Wang, Yunesky Maya and others. Of the starters trying to make the rotation, Gaudin and Craig Stammen would fit best as the bullpen's long reliever, the role Miguel Batista so ably played last year.
Just because Gaudin can relieve, though, doesn't mean he wants to.
"I don't want to do it by any means," Gaudin said. "But if I have to do that to help the team, then I will. But I feel that I can help them in another way. That's what I'm shooting for right now."
| February 27, 2011; 11:45 AM ET
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