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5th starter decision won’t be made til Saturday

Mar 26, 2014, 5:59 PM EDT

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JUPITER, Fla. — Six weeks of spring training haven’t been enough for the Nationals to settle on a No. 5 starter, so what’s a couple more days at this point?

Manager Matt Williams said Wednesday the club still hasn’t made a decision on its last remaining roster question and won’t until after Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan each get an opportunity to pitch during Saturday’s exhibition finale at Nationals Park.

“We’re going to have Tanner, and we’re going to have Taylor; both are going to pitch that day in the exhibition game,” Williams said. “So that’s the plan as of right now. There’s been no decision made.”

Williams said Roark is likely to start Saturday against the Tigers, with Jordan following him out of the bullpen. Each right-hander will get a chance to throw several innings, leaving either ready to start the Nationals’ home opener, April 4 against the Braves.

The two young hurlers have been squaring off all spring, with original candidate Ross Detwiler dropped from the competition when he was moved to the bullpen last week. Neither has clearly distinguished himself over the other: Roark has a 3.29 ERA and 1.024 WHIP this spring, while Jordan has a 3.92 ERA and a stellar 20-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The competition appears to have left members of the Nationals’ coaching staff and front office legitimately debating which pitcher deserves the job.

“I don’t know if there’s a difference of opinion,” Williams said. “I think the more accurate statement would be: They both make a really good case. So could you go wrong if it’s one over the other? I don’t know if you could. But we have to look at, certainly, all of our thoughts and everybody’s suggestions. We do really approach this as a group. And everybody’s free to give their opinion, and we take those opinions seriously. And we’ll make our decision. But it truly is a group effort.”

One factor that has prevented the decision from being made yet: Club officials want to be 100 percent confident No. 4 starter Doug Fister will be ready to open the season on-time after missing three weeks with elbow inflammation. The right-hander is scheduled to throw 60-to-65 pitches in a minor-league game Thursday in Viera. If that goes well, he would then remain in Florida to make one more minor-league start April 1, ramping up to about 80 pitches.

Fister would be slated to make his Nationals debut April 6 against the Braves. But if, for some reason, he wasn’t quite ready yet, the Nationals could keep both Roark and Jordan in the Opening Day rotation.

  1. natinalsgo - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    They’ve made a decision. They just haven’t made an official announcement.

    • NatsLady - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:07 PM

      I think so too. And I think Roark and Jordan know, too. It’s not Rizzo’s style to keep guys twisting. They’ve been told to keep quiet about it until Saturday–it’s always good to find out if guys can keep a secret…

      • David Proctor - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:14 PM

        “It’s not Rizzo’s style to keep guys twisting. ”

        Well they did this with Ross Detwiler and John Lannan in 2012.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:26 PM

        That is an interesting response and I always thought Davey and Rizzo had a difference of opinions that ked to a delay. It was unfortunate.

    • NatsLady - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:34 PM

      @DP–I think there was disagreement in both cases between Davey and Rizzo, so I don’t think it’s quite the same. Looking at more recent cases, they could have waited on some of the releases but Rizzo said he wanted to let guys do what they needed to do [i.e., to catch on with another team, if possible.] Although there may be indecision, I doubt there is a GM/manager schism–at least, I HOPE not!!

      A few days ago, I thought it would be Jordan with Roark to the pen. Now that the pen is basically set and the “loser” goes to Syracuse, I think it will be Roark. Nats want to get off to a hot start, and he’s shown he’s fearless and tough. My concern is whether the more experienced hitters in the league will figure him out, but if that happens, then you go and get Jordan. Some reliever will get injured (Stammen) or traded (Storen) and there will be room for Roark.

      • nats128 - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:50 PM

        You bring up a good point and theres still time for a trade. Im hoping Storen doesnt get traded as to not give Thom Loverro any thing more to crow about.

  2. Nattering Nat - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:13 PM

    Makes sense to me that they mainly are waiting for news on Fister, last-minute, before making a final decision or making it official.

    But in the realm of speculation, like with Franden, could there be another surprise DL or other move coming out of left field, as it were, or from the bullpen that would allow them to keep BOTH on the roster, at least for now?

    • snerdblurter - Mar 27, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      Agreed. Roark has it in the bag, they’re just waiting to make sure Fister gets the green light.

  3. nats128 - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:47 PM

    3:36 p.m. — Here come the Nats. They scored two in the top of the eighth, with Caleb Ramsey delivering the big, two-out single. Moments before that, though, Danny Espinosa struck out on a mighty, left-handed swing, stranding the bases loaded with one out. For the first time in awhile, Danny looked like the 2013 version of himself there. 3-2 Cards, going to the bottom of the eighth.

    Well said there Mr. Zuckerman. It was like deja vous all over again! It reminded me of The Natural striking out the Whammer only that wasnt the Natural pitching or the Whammer batting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdtCFKVtSls

    • natinalsgo - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:32 PM

      Is it defiance. What goes on with Espi. You wonder if todays performance sealed the fate of the 2nd base starter competition.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 27, 2014 at 8:34 AM

      deja vous” = French for “You again?!”

  4. natsjackinfl - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    Kolko just tweeted that Kobernus has been optioned to AAA and Leon to AA.

    • David Proctor - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:59 PM

      So the roster is set except for Jordan and Roark.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:29 PM

        and the 2nd base competition ;)

    • Joe Seamhead - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:14 PM

      Well, I do declare! You don’t say! What a shock.

      • nats128 - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:57 PM

        The only shock to me this Spring is that Roark didnt go to the pen. I like that Barrett came in as a long shot and got a spot. I still think Treinen deserved a spot with the only issue was there wasnt room unless a trade was made.

        I wasnt surprised by Detwiler to the pen as I predicted that with TaylorJ getting the 5th starter spot. OK, TaylorJ better win the 5th starter spot.

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