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Who gets the No. 5 starter’s job?

Mar 11, 2011, 4:00 PM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Tom Gorzelanny has done little this spring but remains in line for a rotation spot.

Perhaps the most intriguing roster battle in Nationals camp this spring is for the final spot in the Opening Day rotation, with Ross Detwiler, Chad Gaudin and Yunesky Maya making a strong charge to bump Tom Gorzelanny from his perch.

Unless, of course, there really isn't a battle at all because Gorzelanny's going to get the job no matter what.

Truth be told, that's probably how this is going to play out in the end. Not because Gorzelanny will necessarily do anything to secure his place, but because the Nationals aren't focused on who their five Opening Day starters are as much as they're focused on establishing a stable of 10 or more starters who are likely to be needed during the course of the season.

We all tend to put too much emphasis on spring training competitions. Every once in a while, these battles really do matter because the loser winds up getting released or is never heard from again. But most of the time, the winner merely is assured of a big-league job for a few weeks while the loser heads to Syracuse knowing he's likely to be promoted in short order.

This is especially true when it comes to starting pitchers. As they've proven since they arrived in town, the Nationals need a lot more thanRead more »

  1. Anonymous - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    Gorzelanny better step up. I really want Detwiler to get a chance. I like his potential.

  2. Steve M. - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    Mark, excellent job of bringing us back to reality on how the politics and business of assembling the 25 man is done.The waiver situation makes Gorzelanny the 5th man so unless he is so awful as to not be serviceable I agree with Mark's rationale here.I have thought from the start that Detwiler has to be in the mix even as part of the bullpen and will point out again to all the Detwiler supporters that he has done great in his appearances which have been no more than 3 innings of work at a time, but Detwiler stumbles in the 4th and 5th innings of work and 2nd time through the order so while I am encouraged I still need to be convinced that he is now a starting rotation pitcher and can get through a regular season game of seeing each batter 3 times effectively.

  3. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    I'm in the Detwiler camp, as well, but a month or two of quality starts in Sryacuse for him wouldn't hurt.Please let the first round of cuts today include Mock, Detwiler and Severino.

  4. Anonymous - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    What's the saying? "It's not how you start, it's how you finish". As long as the Nationals win at least 79 games this season is all that matters. By June 1 at least three of the back three would have already been brought up. If this is not the case, then Nationals shall have been off to a tremendous start… UNTERP

  5. DCJohn - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    Imagine what we would be talking if the Nats pulled off the Zack Greinke trade. Boy the lamintations. Greinke cracks a rib playing a pick-up game of basketball. We just want five or six innings of solid performance out our starters and give it over to the bullpen. I am more concerned about Drew Storen's development than Grozelanny's minor league options. (I'll take the under that Gorzelanny will be "assigned" before Memorial Day.

  6. Brian B - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    Steve–are you referring to the past years or this current Spring? All accounts indicate that there is a noticeable difference between Detwiler now and what he was in the past. I have no idea if that will translate to an easier trip through the order the second time around, or better conditioning to allow him to stretch his starts, but lots of folks seem to be high on him.I wonder, also, about taking a guy who you are grooming as a starter and throwing him in the pen. If you are doing it because he has a better shot at contributing long term as a reliever, then that makes sense. But, if you eventually want him to start, it makes sense to put him in those situations. I imagine that the prep work is much different, and it would probably do him good to get as many starts to build stamina as possible. I guess we'll see with Neftali Feliz in Texas this year whether that theory actually makes any sense…haha

  7. Les in NC - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    We spent 3 minor leaguers on Gorzelanny, so we need to bring him north and see what kind of value he brings to Washington. That said, I hope that he can show why the FO wanted him bad enough to trade for him before ST ends. If he doesn't, and Detwiler, Maya, Gaudin continue to have better showings, it will be a tough pill to swallow when he is on the 25 man and they aren't.On a side note, I was wondering…. … …… I know this has no real bearing on anything, other than aesthetics…Can you find out if we (the fans) can expect a curly "W" in the center field grass this season, or no?

  8. Tim - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    Detwiler just needs to pitch every 5th day till he hits his innings limit. I think both he and Maya could be the 3,4 starters for the nats 2012 season.

  9. court - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    Perhaps Gorzelanny isn't the only one on the hot seat to make the OD roster. If stockpiling is priority like Mark suggest (and I agree), then Lannan and JZnn could also be sent down to start the year if Detwiler and Maya are just too good not to use. JZ is on an innings limit so perhaps the FO sends him to SYR as sort of an extended Spring Training to ease him into the year. While his numbers look good, he hasn't been particularly sharp – probably due to rust. Why not let him make a few 5 inning starts in SYR to build up more arm strength and then call him around the beginning of May to replace whoever is hurt/sucking. I believe the development and progression of Jordan Zimmermann is far and away the most critical issue/storyline/question mark for the team this year. If the team is going to contend sooner rather than later, JZ has got to be a top-flight #2 starter behind Strasburg for the forseeable future. I'm anxious to see how he's handled.

  10. TimDz - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    Detwiler needs to start in Syracuse to show that he can consistently get through the opposing teams lineup the second/third time around…Steve M makes that very point above.I would be shocked to see Mock not get cut, NatsJack. If he doesn't, I would suggest that he may have photos of Rizzo in compromising positions.

  11. Theophilus - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    NatsJack — I don't see the need to send any pitchers down immediately. If all of the starters are going only five innings (at most) for the next couple of weeks, they need to burn 3-4 pitchers a day for a while. They don't have that many surplus arms in camp. On the other hand, it's time for some of the surplus position players to go, e.g., Van Every, Frazier, Bixler, Lombardozzi. Cora, Gonzalez, Stairs, Ankiel, Nix, Bernandina (and Morgan) are in competition for real jobs and need the ABs. (Marrero probably needs to stick around for a few days to see if LaRoche stays healthy.) And there are no more split-squad days. (I would not buy Mock a ticket to Syracuse; Auburn would be far enough.)

  12. Anonymous - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    The Nats top priority is to not waste money. Gorz is in, Gaudin is the long man and the guys with options will go to the minors at least for the time being. Not much to talk about here really. dfh21

  13. Todd Boss - Mar 11, 2011 at 5:07 PM Touched on this same topic at length last week and resulted in a lengthy comment discussion. Agree that Gorzelanny needs to show some improvements soon and will be on a short leash come 4/1/11.

  14. PAY TO PLAY - Mar 11, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    Detwiler will absolutely help this club in one way or the other in 2011.He needs to start in Syracuse and see if he can get through the 7th inning consistently and showing dominance. If he can't do it, I have the uptmost confidence that he could be dominant in the bullpen and much better than Doug Slaten as the lefty.

  15. Anonymous - Mar 11, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    TimDz said… I would be shocked to see Mock not get cut, NatsJack. If he doesn't, I would suggest that he may have photos of Rizzo in compromising positions. __________________________Nyjer and JMax had those same photos and I don't think Rizzo cares any more. LOL I am hoping this is a new mindset!

  16. Anonymous - Mar 11, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    I'm not worried about Detwiler or Gorzelanny. I think both will end up in the rotation sooner rather than later as the Phillies and their left handed bats will be coming very early on … meanwhile back at the ranch … I mean the farm … there are two guys we haven't seen yet who are older prospects, almost assuredly bound for Syracuse, flame thrower Ryan Tatusko who led H-burg to the playoffs last year and a lefty, organization pitcher of the year Tom MIlone. Both might also start for this club before the end of the year but it begs the question … and, as Mark astutely points out, may be just as important as determining the Nats starting rotation … and that is who exactly will be starting in Syracuse? They might have 10 starters trying just to make the Chief's rotation? It also makes you wonder about propitious trades that might be made?

  17. sjm 308 - Mar 11, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    If you look at the 3 prospects we gave up for Gorzo, none of them projected to helping us like he can. Mark did a good job of helping us figure out how the 25 man roster will be filled as far as pitching is concerned and I agree that Detwiller will not be hurt by time in Syracuse.Even though the pitching battles for starters and relief are intriguing, the position battles are just as interesting. Does this group think that one player has moved into a lock for opening day? I think it would be hard to not keep Harrison, and it appears Ankiel is also a positive in the clubhouse and on the field (nice to hear him helping Harper on that catch, wonder if Morgan would have done the same?)I was hoping for 75 wins this year and its still early but if we could actually be relevant in August/Sept, how great would that be??Go Nats!!

  18. Feel Wood - Mar 11, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    "Can you find out if we (the fans) can expect a curly "W" in the center field grass this season, or no?"Did they change groundskeepers over thw winter? Because it was the previous head groundskeeper (who was new last year) that decided to discontinue the W in the center field grass. Why? Because someone might trip on it. I kid you not.

  19. sjm 308 - Mar 11, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    Duh, Hairston not Harrisonsorry guys

  20. Anonymous - Mar 11, 2011 at 6:04 PM

    Duh, Hairston not Harrison sorry guysUh, perhaps Bixler looks better? And he too is capable of playing just as many positions and did last year for Syracuse. Plus, he is younger. Makes you wonder why they wasted the money on Hairston … but then Riggleman likes his older veterans like Hairston, Cora, and Stairs. Likely why he never gets managing jobs except for last place teams and only as a bench coach who then replaces the manager. And his record as a manager appears to reflect that. If you play older guys who can't do what Morse, Bernadina or Harper can? What does that say about you?The last cut will likely be Riggleman.

  21. Diz - Mar 11, 2011 at 6:16 PM

    We don't need to start Gz, make him the long man out of the bullpen and we might be able to squeeze Det in 25.

  22. phil dunn - Mar 11, 2011 at 6:18 PM

    Gorzelanny's acquisition by Rizzo was a desperate and stupid move. The roster was already loaded with marginal starting pitchers. One more just added to the confusion. To make matters worse, he will get the #5 slot because he makes a lot more money than the others and Rizzo needs to save face.

  23. masnstinks - Mar 11, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    Pay to Play — NONE of our pitchers make it through 7 innings – if ANY of them start to do that on a regular basis, we will be in business!

  24. Wally - Mar 11, 2011 at 6:32 PM

    I disagree with the 'Gorzy has to show something soon' feeling. His track record at the major league level suggests that he could add value to the Nats – not a certainty, but a realistic possibility – and ST should be used to get him ready for the season. It is also premature to make any conclusions about him. He had walking pneumonia before camp started and then some back problems slowed him. While we may not like that he was injured/ill, reality is that it happens to virtually all players, especially pitchers, and it would be wrong to hold it against the player. We need to give him a chance to get healthy and then in game shape, and if that timing is slower than the other guys, put him on the DL to start the season. But we shouldn't make lasting decisions based on delays associated with injuries, and the Nats should sure as heck not make him feel that he has to rush back and prove something in the middle of March. We should do this not because he is making $2m, but because he may be a valuable contributor to the team. As someone said a few blogs ago, the Nats seem to have a pattern of pitchers concealing injuries that in turn lead to poor performance and longer injury absences. I am not saying that it is intentional, but efforts should be made to avoid repeating those situations.

  25. Tim - Mar 11, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    I'd wager thst Detwiler was part of numerous trade packages that didn't get worked out this off season… thankfully. I know that hope springs eternal, but I think he and JZimm are gonna be lights out this season.I believe that Storen will start the season at Syracuse, along with Det and Maya. I realize he's been throwing nothing but fastballs but they're gettin' hit hard.

  26. Tcostant - Mar 11, 2011 at 6:37 PM

    Detwiler needs to make the team, if his trend of pitching keeps up the rest of the spring. Even if he is not the 5th starter, I prefer Detwiler in the pen and Storen going down to work on whatever his issue really is. Detwiler needs to be in the bigs if he keeps this up…Starting Detwiler in the pen and then starting him later, is a very good way to keep his innings down too (this was done with Perdo, Santana and Liriano just to name a few).

  27. BinM - Mar 11, 2011 at 7:01 PM

    The thing that others have brought up is that the #5SP slot may also be a competition for the Long Relief bullpen job, as well. Gorzellany might be competing against Maya & Detwiler for the SP job, but also needs to watch out for Stammen & Gaudin in the Long Relief role. It may well come down to options remaining / minor-league contract status for both roles, but having multiple pitchers trying to keep a 25-man spot is a good thing for the orginization.

  28. JD - Mar 11, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    Tim said:'I realize he's been throwing nothing but fastballs but they're gettin' hit hard'. Storen pitched 1 1/3 innings yesterday and had 4 strikeouts; most of the negative comments about him are based on 2 bad outings. I don't think he's going to the minors.

  29. Theophilus - Mar 11, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    Agree that Gorzellany makes the team (unless he qualifies for the DL) based on the money he's making and how much was surrendered to obtain him. Further agree that, so far, his acquisition appears to have been an unneeded insurance policy (unless injuries to one or more of the other starters crop up). Maya could probably do as well, though his results so far are mixed. Can make a rationalization for sending Detweiler down, to learn how to pitch at least 7 innings, which I don't think he has done (consistently) any time in his minor league career, let alone w/ the Nats. There is no reason to think Gaudin is capable of what he's done so far once Opening Day rolls around. He is what he is. Heaven knows what they'll do w/ Wang if he ever gets healthy. I think right now it's between Gaudin (ugh), Maya and Stammen for one spot on the roster.

  30. Feel Wood - Mar 11, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    If Detwiler doesn't make the Opening Day rotation – which he won't, because he has options remaining and others like Gorzelanny don't – he's not going to be the long guy in the bullpen either, no matter how well he pitches the rest of spring training. Why? Because to put him in the bullpen would signal that they've given up on him as a starter. If they want him to remain a starter, they'll send him to Syracuse or Harrisburg so he can start every five days like a developing starter needs to. Pitching on an irregular basis out of the bullpen would ruin him as a possible starter, for this year anyway.

  31. natsfansilverspring - Mar 11, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    On the other hand, GZ could be a long relief man if his pitching doesn't pick up. He won't like it, but he has played that role in the past.

  32. Doug - Mar 11, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    How is nobody discussing Broderick? There was a reason the Nats took him in the Rule 5 draft. I know the guy doesn't have that great of stuff but all he does is pound the strike zone. His K/BB rate has been sky high throughout his minor league career as he barely ever walks hitters. Also, in his 2 shots this spring he has been great: 6 IP 4 H 1 ER 4K 0 BB.





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