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Can they hold on til May?

Mar 2, 2010, 2:52 PM EDT

VIERA, Fla. — Good morning from soggy Space Coast Stadium, where a torrential downpour earlier soaked the field. And there's more rain expected later this morning.

The Nationals have, however, decided to commence their morning workout. Sounds like they're going to try to squeeze in as much as they can — including another round of live BP featuring Stephen Strasburg — before the skies open again.

Speaking of Strasburg, Jim Riggleman once again this morning made it pretty clear the phenom won't be making the big-league roster on Opening Day. Saying the decision might be more "philosophical than based on performance," Riggleman suggested Strasburg could dominate hitters this spring but still be shipped out sometime later this month to build up his innings count in minor-league camp and then open the season in the minors.

For those who want to catch an early glimpse of the almighty right-hander, though, you now will be able to watch his debut next Tuesday against the Tigers. MASN has picked the game up and will be televising it both live at 1 p.m. and again on tape delay at 7 p.m.

In other rotation news, Scott Olsen will indeed start Monday against the Marlins, so the initial turn through the rotation is now set: Mock/Martin in split-squad games Thursday, Batista on Friday,Read more »

  1. Sam - Mar 2, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    I have put up with losing since I was old enough to comprehend baseball (1997, I guess, when I was 7). I have never once seen a good Expos/Nationals team, and, unfortunately, I do not expect this year to be any different. I think that once the team is "healthy" (that is, Flores is completely healed, Strasburg is called up, Wang is completely healed), it has a chance to be good. But the odds of the team being completely healthy are low. So, it is hard to expect any big things from them.On a side note, I hope that Stammen makes the rotation. He is certainly not great, by any means, but he did post a 4.68 FIP last year. That is much better than Martin, Chico (in 2007 and 2008), and even Olsen (whose health is in question, by the way).

  2. Anonymous - Mar 2, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    The early schedule is indeed brutal. It is hoped that although the team is likely to be sub .500 in those first 50 games, that they will be able to focus on the promises surely to be realized later. The 2011 season in all probability is the dream year we've been thirsting for. A pennant race? Thats a conversation we might get mentioned in by then. JT in SC

  3. Anonymous - Mar 2, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    Does this mean that the rest of the schedule has more <.500 teams, and comes when the Nats will be at their 'strongest'?

  4. Steve M. - Mar 2, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    JT in SC – I agree with you. You hope 2010 shows some progress with players stepping up as an indicator for the future as this has to be the year to determine JFlores future as well as Desmond and Dukes and probably Willingham too. The team has to know who the long term catcher is and can Desmond be the man up the middle as well as the consistency of the corner outfielders. Then if all the percentages with the walking wounded work in favor of the Nats then this will be quite the rotation.Make that "if" a big IF.So, Rizzo would need for 2011 Dunn to be extended and the bullpen needs that dominant closer and the team needs a long term solution at Shortstop (Desmond and someone else) and IF the rotation has Lannan, Marquis, Olsen, Strasburg, Wang, Zimmermann with Stammen, Detwiler, Mock, Martin, Chico, also vying for the starting rotation then 2011 looks promising.

  5. Anonymous - Mar 2, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    The line between unrestrained enthusiasm and cold (wet) reality is a fine one, especially in March. The consensus is that the Nationals are stronger–top to bottom in all aspects of the game–than they've been since they arrived in DC. That likely means we'll have more competitive games out of the gate than last year. That our schedule is abusively bad earlier on is really beside the point (we're not expected to be playoff ready this year)—besides we’re riding a 7-game win streak from last year! I'm looking for the Nats to be a "problem" for its division rivals; to take games that they would have lost last year; and to hold leads–however small–that they routinely gave up last year. And if June-July-August, we're fresher than our competition because our rotation has been restocked, then this year will be significantly more fun than the last couple (if we're in the hunt as of the All-Star break that will just be a bonus). While it would be grand to be in the thick of the playoff race–and I desperately want us to be there as soon as possible–I'm happy to have my expectations be in line with "competitive". And who knows, maybe the Nats will have just enough tenacity to steal the odd game that is the difference between being the door mat and achieving respect in the league. Carl in 309.

  6. Anonymous - Mar 2, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    Maybe another good reason not to expose Strasburg early.

  7. Kenz aFan - Mar 2, 2010 at 4:23 PM

    While it's true that the Nats have a tough schedule to start off the 2010 season, fans need to remember, that in baseball, the outcome of none of the contests, is written in stone. In a sport where, not even an easy out is a sure thing, in a sport where as walk over win is a sure thing, nothing is guaranteed. That's why, until the last out is recorded, all things are possible.Instead of looking at the schedule as a potentially disheartening beginning to the season for the Nats and their fans, I prefer to see the thrills of an E ticket ride at Disney World as my favorite boys of summer "play a game".Besides, if the Nats are ever to be taken seriously, eventually taking the next step into the land where contenders dwell, playing and winning against the tougher teams will have to start sometime. Why not get a head-start this year, giving fans a glimpse into the future, so to speak?Baseball is a game of streaks, and if by chance that Nats have a decent streak, playing a few games over .500 over the first few weeks of the season, the confidence in the club house and on the field will show on the scoreboard.Ah, spring training, where hope springs eternal. For Nats fans, that hope is a bit more electric than it's been in years, and for some, decades.

  8. Jaxpo Nat - Mar 2, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    @Sam… I've been an Expo/Nat fan since '87 and I've only seen a few legit contenders… at least you didn't have to suffer through the '94 season where, in July, we were almost indisputably the best team in baseball and the strike just threw it all away. Still no playoffs in my 22-year expo/nat fandom. Hoping to see the playoffs before I die.

  9. peric - Mar 2, 2010 at 5:37 PM

    They've had enough luck just getting an amazing guy like Morgan … he may make an appearance or three in some All-Star games. And then there's Dunn. You can't base a pitching rotation on raw rookies or the walking wounded. You have to look at the guys who are legitimately there and legitimately healthy. JD Martin … Boz also ignores him … just watch he'll be in there … and then I – will – be- insufferable … bwahahahahahahahahahah …

  10. Anonymous - Mar 2, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    Mark: Come on, the early-season schedule is part of the reason that the team has 10+ experienced starters in camp. Find the best five (Lannan, Marquis & three others from the rest) to get the team to late May – early June, where they could get a "reset" (Wang, Detwiler, Strasburg) on the bottom of the rotation. —@Kenz aFan: The "E-ticket" reference would be applicable if the Nationals find a way to duplicate their 2005 first-half. Then, they're the best ride in the park, and well worth the price of admission. And yes, the reference dates us both. -BinM-

  11. Bill - CH - Mar 2, 2010 at 6:43 PM

    No excuses – play good baseball! Wins will be what wins will be.

  12. Brian Wolly - Mar 2, 2010 at 10:03 PM

    Mark — how much is the arbitration clock a factor in deciding when to start Strasburg? If they delay him til June or so, doesnt that give them an extra year of Strasburg-on-the-cheap?

  13. Mark Zuckerman - Mar 2, 2010 at 11:33 PM

    Brian Wolly: The arbitration clock is definitely a factor. It's a bit complicated, but basically by waiting til late-May or early-June, the Nats should guarantee that Strasburg won't be arbitration-eligible until after the 2013 season and won't be a free agent until after the 2016 season. That extra year of control makes a difference.

  14. BaseballinDC - Mar 3, 2010 at 6:31 PM

    Holding Strasbourg back makes sense for regrettable reasons. Let's face it – the Nats won't be going to the playoffs this year. That doesn't mean we don't support and root for them, but let's not sacrifice the future by having to go to arbitration one year earlier with a guy we all hope we'll have to pay Tim Linceum money to.(Love the "E" ticket ride reference – all my favs were C's though!)

Archives

FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 96 66 --
ATLANTA 79 83 17.0
NEW YORK 79 83 17.0
MIAMI 77 85 19.0
PHILADELPHIA 73 89 23.0

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NL WILD CARD GAME
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)

NLDS
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
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