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Posted at 1:03 PM ET, 02/23/2011

Long toss: Opening day dilemma

By Washington Post editors

Mixed among comments about Bryce Harper trying to make the big leagues is an interesting question about opening day.

Commenter Brue said he heard Larry Bowa criticizing some teams for naming their opening day starting pitchers too soon -- such as the Nationals indicating that Livan Hernandez would fill that role.

[L]ike he said, 'you're stuck with them going against the other team's ace all year'. Anybody that doesn't think JZimm isn't the #1 on this staff is incompetent. He's your best pitcher. By a LOT. Doesn't make any sense.

Another commenter -- dls5kk -- disagreed:

Why do you think [Jordan] Zimmermann is our #1 right now? He played DECENT at the end of last year, has no experience starting - being an ace that is, and riggleman has already said he's going to have an inning limit this season. How in the heck could our ace have a limit? That would look just terrible. ...

Maybe next season he could be our number 2. I'm more excited about what Ross [Detwiler] is going to look like during spring training - been reading that he's looking like the best athlete on the field right now after he changed up his delivery

What do you think? Did the Nats lean toward Livo prematurely? Would you rather see Zimmermann or perhaps Detwiler on opening day?

By Washington Post editors  | February 23, 2011; 1:03 PM ET
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Next: Drew Storen meets Jayson Werth again


I'll be happy to see Livan start off the year for us. He is an easy popular choice for the role, which is NOT the same thing as naming him the best pitcher on the staff. For at least a while though, he is the "face of the rotation".

Posted by: angusgoodson | February 23, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, does it matter?

Posted by: joemktg1 | February 23, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I think that all of this talk about competition in this camp has been way overblown. Opening Day starter tabbed, lead off man/CF banked, infield and catcher, all set, lineup card inked in already . . .

Anyway, Bowa is right. Livo is a solid guy, he'll keep us in games, but he may not be the guy to tab for the Opener. Why declare him for the role now? What benefit is there in doing that? Why not let the few guys who have a shot at the role compete for the opportunity? Or better yet, why not make some kind of deal for an arm that actually demands the role more than anyone we currently have? (OK, big wishful thinking -- I know.)

Posted by: dfh21 | February 23, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

>>I suspect you will see Harper spend more time in Harrisburg and Syracuse. Especially Syracuse as it is more than reasonably far away from DC and any real big city.

Perc, why the need to keep him away from a big city?

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 23, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

"[L]ike he said, 'you're stuck with them going against the other team's ace all year'."

Um, no you're not. Days off, rain outs, skipping a start here and there plus other factors throughout the season makes it basically impossible to always have one team's #1 face off against another teams #1 all year.

It only matters who you're "Ace" is on OD and the start of the playoffs. That's it. And based on who the Nats have on their roster, Livo is far and away the best choice to have as the OD starter this season (and this season only!). Opening Day is a big deal - lots of hype, lots of emotions, lots of expectations. Having someone that has done it before, has had prior success (and not just last season) and can mentally and physically handle the chore of OD is why Livo is the best choice (right now) for the Nats.

Now, if he's penciled in to be the OD starter NEXT YEAR, then we have a problem!

Posted by: erocks33 | February 23, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Well said, erocks33... as if everytime Livo pitches against the Phillies, he is going to have to face off against Roy Halladay... no chance, he will often get matched up against one of their lesser starters, like Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels... d'oh...

Posted by: Ghost7 | February 23, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and carrying over from the Werth fitting into Nats Park previous thread ...

I just looked at Werth's career numbers against the projected starting 5 for each NL East team and except for the Braves, he really hasn't hit well against most of the NL East starters.

He's especially bad against the Marlins:

vs Josh Johnson: .214 / .353 / .214
(3-14, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 9 SO)
vs Ricky Nolasco: .231 / .286 / .462
(3-13, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 6 SO)
vs Javier Vazquez: .091 / .200 / .091
(2-22, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 2 BB, 9 SO)
vs Anibal Sanchez: .105 / .105 / .158
(2-19, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 13 SO)
vs Chris Volstad: .050 / .050 / .050
(1-20, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 7 SO)

Posted by: erocks33 | February 23, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Sure Livo deserves the start ... but then there is an off-day and after that the real rotation with Jordan Zimmermann at the top. But that likely won't happen under Riggleman.

Again, when does "performance" become the most important thing? Comparing Gorzelanny to Marquis as starters last year? And Marquis gets the nod? When Rizzo claims he sent out a competition memo and wants guys to compete for jobs that's great. The problem is he completely forgot to forward that memo to Jim Riggleman. Who would ignore it in any case. For Riggleman "respecting the veterans" is more important than winning games ... great way to make the fan base stronger ... great way to make potential free agents want to avoid Riggleman like the plague.

Riggleman has to go.

Posted by: periculum | February 23, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

"Perc, why the need to keep him away from a big city?"

Too much hype, too much of a "circus-like" atmosphere. The Nats believe that Harper (and before him Stras) needed to focus on learning ... because once you get to the bigs Rizzo wants it to be about performance and then there's no avoiding the "circus".

I would guess that Rizzo wants diligent work and as much focus on learning the mental aspects of the game as possible.

Posted by: periculum | February 23, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Peri -- when did the Nats announce the rest of the SP pecking order? I've only heard of Livo starting OD. After that, it's still a crapshoot, as far as I've seen. Stop getting agitated so quickly. They haven't even played one ST game yet. There will be plenty of time to grouse about the bone-headed moves of Riggleman. Pace yourself ...

Posted by: erocks33 | February 23, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm fine with Livo being the OD starter. He was the Nationals' best pitcher last year.

I'm worried that Detwiler will not get a fair chance to make the opening day roster. I would rather see him in the rotation than Marquis or Gorzellany.

Posted by: urbanbunnies | February 23, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Until today, the only thing Brue had ever long tossed was last night's intake of greasy food and cheap beer.

Posted by: FeelWood | February 23, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Hey Nats Fans! Livo is without a doubt, the best pitcher to open up with. I will tell you why; 1) Cool demeanor will offset the "Opening Day" jitters, (2) It will be hard to prepare for Livo, as, the batter really doesn't know what to expect, other than the ball won't be coming 90mph, and that is what they have been practicing against.

Go Nats!

Posted by: patsgrill4U | February 23, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Anybody that doesn't think JZimm isn't the #1 on this staff is incompetent.

Ok, I'll admit it, I can't tell what I have to not think to not be incompetent.

Posted by: Arkymark | February 23, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was a nice sign of respect and appreciation to name 2010's most accomplished Nationals starter the opening day pitcher for 2011. And Larry Bowa knows a lot more than me, but just who would you rather have facing the top starter of the opposing team for the rest of the year? JZimm may be good, but he'll be better against the number 4 guy. Why make him face Hudson, Halladay, Johnson, etc.... Earn the right. Hernandez did.

Posted by: whatsaNATaU | February 23, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Livan is the "Ace" of the staff, by all factors that make sense to take into account. Oldest, most history, best performance last year, etc.

And the Ace starts opening day.

Zimmermann has the most POTENTIAL of the 5 presumed starters, but has yet to log even 100 innings in a major league season. And we've yet to really see him put it together for a long period of time.

If anyone else besides Livan was in the discussion to start opening day it would have been Lannan. Nobody else. Perhaps next year Strasburg can resume being "the man" of the rotation.

Posted by: tboss | February 23, 2011 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Livo is best suited of any pitcher on our staff to face opposing #1s for the rest of the year, gives us the best chance to stay in the game, so I think he's an easy choice.

Posted by: ajtrue78 | February 23, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

What a lame topic. Opening Day starter doesn't matter much. Certainly not this year, for us.

"Stuck with them going against the other team's ace all year" -- are you kidding me? -- that's ridiculous.

Livo's the obvious choice, what with his experience and how he pitched next year.

Now on to more important topics, like how low to keep the grass mown.

Posted by: spunkydawg1 | February 23, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

*how he pitched LAST year*

And I don't even think "mown" is a real word.

Not that anyone's reading this lame topic.

Posted by: spunkydawg1 | February 23, 2011 6:23 PM | Report abuse

I would love to see Detwiler or Zimmerman start the season off, but I think Livan gets it because he is a steady veteran. You can't open the season with a giant question mark at starting pitching. I would prefer Zimmerman to Detwiler though.

Posted by: evanszy | February 23, 2011 11:30 PM | Report abuse

Why would anyone spend any time worrying about what Bowa has to say? most good baseball people recognize that are why too many "Ifs" on the Nats staff to even think about an "Ace" right now. Livo is as solid as they go and has the attitude to face any other pitcher with confidence. Good job Riggs.

Posted by: mikemackie | February 24, 2011 5:18 PM | Report abuse

livo is the most reasonable choice to start opening day if only for experience sake...what you should really look for in the rotation is who's going to be the stopper......who's going to end a losing streak. is there a pitcher on the staff that will fill that role? teams with losing records generally don't have a reliable one. on this team, that's what you need to worry about. not who's starting on opening day.

Posted by: joerutgens72 | February 25, 2011 1:44 AM | Report abuse

We still have a pitching staff in the "show me" mode. I'll believe they are decent, and I hope they are, when they show me. I feel sure they have improved, it's just, how much? As a manager, I would not have opened with Livo. But, as I've said, show me. He may be able to. Do we have an ace? No, not active that is. A team can have a pitching staff without an ace. The Nats have been in that position for a long time, and Livo is not an ace. GO NATS!! A fun season is on the way.

Posted by: Pete433 | February 25, 2011 6:34 AM | Report abuse

It seems to me the Opening Day honor should go to the best starter from the previous season -- barring injury. That's Livan, by a lot.

Posted by: brucewilmot2007 | February 25, 2011 7:12 AM | Report abuse

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