Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
On Twitter: AdamKilgoreWP and PostSports  |  Facebook  |  E-mail alerts: Sports and Redskins  |  RSS
Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 02/11/2011

Nationals want a competitive spring training for starters

By Adam Kilgore

Already, the Nationals' spring training complex is being inundated with pitchers. John Lannan, Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Burnett, Todd Coffey, Garrett Mock, Collin Balester, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Tim Wood and Cole Kimball have showed up. Many others will arrive today. By Saturday, pitching coach Steve McCatty said, almost the entire Nationals pitching staff will have reported to Viera, Fla.

Official workouts for pitchers and catchers won't start until next week, and when they do, the Nationals will have plenty to sort out. McCatty sees four obvious favorites to land spots in the rotation, but not necessarily any 100-percent locks. Asked about the starting competition, McCatty mentioned four names first, the names you would expect: Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jason Marquis and Jordan Zimmermann.

"Here's the thing about baseball," McCatty said. "Until somebody says, 'Hey, you have it,' you better fight your butt off to keep it. I'm sure that the guys realize, 'Hey, Livo is probably going to be starting. They look at how many starts are open. 'I don't know how many spots we have, but I want to be one of them.' Competition should bring out the best of them."


Beyond those four starters who seem entrenched, McCatty rattled off a number of names, like Gorzelanny, Ross Detwiler, Craig Stammen, Luis Atilano, J.D. Martin and Yunesky Maya. Just when McCatty thought he had reached the end of the list, he could pluck another name out of the air.

"I have so many guys," McCatty said. "You have a lot of starters competing for spots. And then you have a long [reliever], so it's going to be interesting."

It seems, listening to McCatty, that the rotation will be Hernandez, Lannan, Marquis, Zimmermann and a fifth starter to be determined, most likely Gorzelanny. But with an entire spring training to go, McCatty emphasized that the Nationals haven't guaranteed anything, even for the most obvious foursome.

"I can't say those four are set in stone," McCatty said. "I don't want to make it seem like that. Those are the names that have come up in discussions. But Zimm doesn't have a lot of experience. If he comes out and throws absolutely terrible, do you just give him that spot? You look at Marquis, he's coming off some injuries. I'm not trying to sit here and say those guys are nailed down. Those are the guys who roll off your tongue first, but it doesn't mean it's a lock. Those final decisions will come down to Riggs and Rizz."

If you read between the lines, what McCatty is saying is, "don't take anything for granted, guys." That being the case, it would come as a mild surprise if the Nationals headed north in six weeks or so without a rotation that looks something like Hernandez, Lannan, Marquis, Zimmermann, Gorzelanny.

Just for kicks, let's throw it out there -- anyone think one of the other starters in camp will surprise and nab a spot?

By Adam Kilgore  | February 11, 2011; 9:00 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Stephen Strasburg has started throwing
Next: Long toss: Nats 2011 pitching staff


I'm not sure we will see any surprises, I just hope that between the top 7 guys: Livo, Lannan, Marquis, Zimmermann, Gorzelanny, Maya and Detwiler, we can get 5 decent starters.

If there is a surprise in the group, I hope Detwiler begins to live up to his high spot in the draft . . .

Can't wait for Spring.

Posted by: dcnationals1 | February 11, 2011 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Maya fan. I think there's potential there that isn't with Gorzelanny. For some reason, I also believe Stammen will put it all together at some point. No reasonable basis for that, just a hunch.

Posted by: rnkorby | February 11, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

No need to read between the lines. Livo is a deadbolt lock, it is not a matter of him "probably" being in the rotation. And follow the money, Marquis if healthy on Opening Day is in the rotation, same goes for Gorzelanny. Lannan is only slightly less likely to be in there, and the club needs no 5th starter until 3-4 weeks into the season anyway, so they may punt on selecting a 5th until May and go with an extra BP arm. Zimm is going to be innings restricted and they rushed Maya last year, so they may take it a little slower this spring with the guy; Wang is not ready and the rest of the guys need to prove they can get guys out in the minors before they start grabbing starts in the bigs.

McCatty can talk about competition this and that but it is Livo, Marquis, Gorz and Lannan in some order, barring injury. It is not a try out for those guys. My guess is that Maya starts in Cuse and gets the call in May to be the 5th. We'll see.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 11, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Very few springs go by without at least one injury to a pitcher. A trade also wouldn't be a surprise. If Maya throws the way he did in winter ball, you have to figure he has a good shot at starting.

Posted by: nats24 | February 11, 2011 9:55 AM | Report abuse

It's hard to say that anything is a lock when we haven't seen what Wang can do. Both he and Gorzelanny are out of options.

Posted by: rkmille | February 11, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

OK, I am an idiot - If Wang is out of options does that mean they can't start him in Syracuse? I think I understand that if he is out of options and they don't keep him on the 25 man roster he would then have to clear waivers before the Nationals could place him. Help me out people.

Posted by: sjm3091 | February 11, 2011 10:29 AM | Report abuse

The most likely outcome is a rotation of Livo, Zimmermann, Lannan and Marquis with Gorzelanny in the long relief role until a 5th starter is needed, then sliding into that spot. But I do think that Livo is going to be phased out during the season because I expect him to regress somewhat and the younger arms will crowd him. I also expect that Marquis will either pitch well enough to get traded midseason or poorly enough to get dropped.

Stepping into those spots will be a couple of younger players, hopefully Detwiler and Maya (although Stammen may crash the party). Anything the team gets out of Chien-Ming Wang will be gravy, but they can't expect anything from him.

Posted by: JCCfromDC | February 11, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

@sjm: Wang may well be out of options, and that would mean that they can't send him to Syracuse without clearing waivers. If he clears waivers, it's off to Syracuse.

But as Douglas Adams would say, don't panic: the most likely outcome is that Wang is placed on the DL at the start of the season (not for any new injury, just continued recovery from the shoulder) and will make some rehab starts in the minors before getting a chance to pitch in DC.

Posted by: JCCfromDC | February 11, 2011 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Wang will start the season on the DL, so they won't have to try to clear him through waivers. The question will be will he be on the 15-day or 60-day DL? I'd prefer the 60-day as this will allow the Nats to judge all the other #5 starters to see if they need to be sent down to Syracuse or DFA'd.

Posted by: erocks33 | February 11, 2011 10:39 AM | Report abuse

completely off-topic, but someone posed this to me yesterday and I thought it was an interesting question:

Should the Nats try and trade for the Rangers' Michael Young? If so, what would you give up for him?

Now I know that he's played 3B for TEX for the past couple of seasons so he obviously wouldn't be placed there in DC. But, he previously was a SS before moving to 3B (I don't think he has the range anymore), and he did start out at 2B.

Would you start him at 2B, move Espinosa to SS and trade Desmond? Conceivably, if Desmond wouldn't get traded, then Espinosa could start in SYR so that he could continue to strengthen his surgically-repaired hand and learn to cut down on the K's. I, for one, would love to have Michael Young in DC ...

Posted by: erocks33 | February 11, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

The Nats have several stretches of 6 games in a row in April and will need a 5th starter, or several spots starts, beginning April 10.
And yes, Wang will likely start the season on the DL, then up to 30 days of rehab time in the minors.
Confident in Maya, for reasons I can not possibly defend.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 11, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

As others have said, Maya is intriguing to me. I wouldn't rule him out as someone that makes a positive statement in spring training. Everyone bemoans the Nationals pitching, but is there any other team that is as deep with #3 and #4 pitchers? What we lack in having a #1, we make up for by having a lot of #3,4,and 5 pitchers! lol

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | February 11, 2011 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Other names? Wang might get it back, which might make him our #2 guy. Mock's got the arm; now if he could only get a new head. Maya didn't show us much last year but with a major league training camp under his belt, well, who knows?

Jason Marquis showed some flashes of his old self last year; maybe he can get it back on a more consistent basis now that he seems healthy. Otherwise he can't really be considered a lock.

Hopefully Lannan's problems last year were just a hiccup. That seems actually to be the case, but the Nats, as we all know, are snakebit and we have got to wonder who that accursed snake will sink his teeth into this year.

(By the way, I have always loved Lannan's old-school 1906 cigarette baseball card look. It's as if he should have a nickname like "Rube" or "Heck" or something. I also like the way he'll throw at a guy who crowds his plate, again real old-school.)

Detwiler's got the stuff. Let's see if he can keep it.

But then we all know that Livo will run out of gas someday -- we can all hope it's not this year.

I'd have felt a lot better about things if we'd gotten Cliff Lee.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | February 11, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

"OK, I am an idiot - If Wang is out of options does that mean they can't start him in Syracuse? I think I understand that if he is out of options and they don't keep him on the 25 man roster he would then have to clear waivers before the Nationals could place him. Help me out people."

They can (and probably will) come out of camp with Wang on the DL. Last I heard he's not supposed to be "ready" until May. Once he actually starts to pitch in the minors, though, he's considered to be on rehab assignment, and there is a time limit for how long that can last before they either have to bring him up, option him down (if he has options left, which he doesn't) or pass him through waivers to keep him in the minors. I think the time limit for rehab assignments for pitchers coming off the 15-day DL is 30 days. So the timeframe to watch is the date Wang makes his first minor league rehab start, because 30 days after that they'd have to bring him up and put him in the rotation or else cut him loose. And if there is any chance at all for him to pitch this year, he'll be put on the 15-day DL, not the 60-day. The 60-day DL is basically "out for the season." And there's no upper limit to how long a player can be on the 15-day DL, it's just a 15 day minimum.

Posted by: FeelWood | February 11, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I agree with dfh21 that Livo is a deadbolt lock. I think it's highly unlikely that Zimmermann performs so poorly that he won't make it. Marquis, because of his salary, is third most likely, but if he looks terrible out of the gate, I can imagine him getting dumped or DL'd. I think Lannan can perform, but given his struggles last year, I'd say there's a significant possibility that he loses his spot.

All of this depends, of course, on someone else stepping up. Gorzy seems almost as likely as Lannan to be in the starting 5. Detwiler has better stuff than several of the potential starters. I think Maya is almost surely going to get more time in AAA, even if he's dominant in the spring. Stammen seems to be a long reliever at this poing. If they have to turn to Martin or Atilano, it will only be because of injuries or incredibly poor performance from the rest of the potential starters.

Posted by: jcj5y | February 11, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I see it as 4 phases of rotation in 2011 -- opening day; Memorial Day, all-star break, and September. When they break camp I expect Hernandez, Lannan, Marquis, Zimmerman, and sometimes Gorzelany. By the end of May I expect/hope Wang to displace one of them - probably Marquis (bullpen or trade). Post all-star break I hope Maya will force his way in. And by September I have hopes that Strasburg is ready.

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 11, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Harper can throw 95. That's harder than anybody mentioned in the article.

Posted by: Brue | February 11, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

natbiscuits, totally agree with your "four phase" theory. Hate to be negative, but we can't rule out "addition by subtraction:" somebody gets out, somebody bombs. For example, while Livan is a lock at this point, if he gets off to a bad start, I wouldn't be surprised to see them dump him, especially if Maya, Detwiler, Wang, etc., looks like they would be ready to pitch well in the bigs.

Posted by: baltova1 | February 11, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

"OK, I am an idiot - If Wang is out of options does that mean they can't start him in Syracuse? "

In fangraphs the average speed on hi fastball when he was healthy was 93.7. Do you think he will be able to match that after that surgery, that injury? If you do you've answered your own question.

No, he can't start in Syracuse unless he clears waivers first.

Posted by: periculum | February 11, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

"Harper can throw 95. That's harder than anybody mentioned in the article."

So can lots of guys dude. And many end up over the fence as a home run. How long can he maintain it? 1 inning, 2, 3? There's a lot that goes into pitching.

Posted by: periculum | February 11, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

" hope Maya will force his way in." --> bullpen. He won't ever throw 93.7 again.

Posted by: periculum | February 11, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Meant to say Wang ... sorry --> bullpen. He won't ever throw 93.7 again.

Maya only gets in when they trade or cut Marquis put Livo in the bullpen.

Posted by: periculum | February 11, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Regarding a trade for Michael Young, I don't think Texas would want Desmond since they have Andrus. I don't know who we could give in return, but I bet Young would do well in left field!

Posted by: poncedeleroy | February 11, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Lannan, Livan, Marquis, Zimm, and Gorz.

I'm almost expecting Livan to get punished this season because without any advanced stats in front me, he was lucky last year. If it does happen, I'm guessing the team will call on Maya to fill his spot. Hopefully Marquis has one of those remarkable rebound years and we're able to flip him at the deadline for a young CF who can hit lefties (sorry, Nyjer) or a good 1B prospect who's stuck behind some all-world slugger (like one of those Ramos deals).

Anyways, thats my little dream, one featuring the Nationals demanding respect one solid move at a time.

Posted by: von_bluff | February 11, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

>There's a lot that goes into pitching.

Posted by: periculum

How the hell would you know?

Posted by: Brue | February 11, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

This is the worst starting pitching staff in the majors. How could it be anything but a wide open competition. I mean I agree that these are the 4 (or 5) favorites, but how could any of them be a lock, given the numbers from last year?

Posted by: newbridge | February 11, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I love it when Brue get riled up just because someone disagrees with his (completely irrelevant) point and demands that all commenters prove they were at least AA pitching coaches before commenting.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | February 11, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

The only AA that would accept Brue is Alcoholics Anonymous.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 11, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Nobody could be serious about Harper pitching. The last thing you want to do is make the kid throw a curveball or changeup.

Jose Canseco pitched once in 1993. He tore a ligament in his forearm and ended up getting Tommy John surgery.

Posted by: 202character | February 12, 2011 2:41 AM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company