The Nationals have decided that left-hander Tom Gorzelanny will start his first game of the 2011 season on April 9 against the Mets, which means Livan Hernandez, John Lannan and Jordan Zimmermann will already have two starts in the books.
With him waiting a while to make his first start, Gorzelanny, the fifth starter in the rotation, most likely will come out of the bullpen as a long reliever before then.
Gorzelanny is not starting until the second week of the season because the Nationals have three days off in more than a week.
Michael Morse was arguably the Nationals’ Spring Training Most Valuable Player, hitting .364 with a team-leading nine home runs and 18 RBIs.
For his work with the bat, Morse was named Washington’s starting left fielder and he vows his hitting will carry over into the regular season.
He gets to prove his worth when he faces Braves right-hander Derek Lowe on Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park. Game time is at 1:05 p.m. ET. It will be the first time Morse gets to start on Opening Day. He will bat fifth in the lineup.
“I’m not going to change anything. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m going to keep playing the game that I play,” Morse said. “I would say the biggest key [to success] is knowing me and knowing the way I play and hit. I have good enough teammates around me that will notice that if I put too much pressure on myself, they will bring me right back down.”
Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler had a solid outing in a 6-4 loss to the Marlins on Sunday afternoon. He pitched five innings and allowed one-run on five hits.
For the spring, Detwiler ended up with a 2.65 ERA. However, his solid performance on the mound will not get him to the big leagues to start the season. The Nationals rotation is set with Livan Hernandez, Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan, Jason Marquis and Tom Gorzelanny.
“Det has made a lot of strides since he had that hip surgery,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “He has really come on and has done some good things. Det has never pitched himself off the club. He is throwing the ball find. He is a big-league pitcher. We’ll see where it goes.”
Entering Spring Training, Rick Ankiel was one of three candidates who had a chance to start in left field for the Nationals.
By mid-March, Michael Morse won the job, leaving Ankiel fighting with Nyjer Morgan and Roger Bernadina for the starting spot in center field.
A few hours after Morgan was traded to the Brewers on Sunday, the Nationals announced that Ankiel will be the Opening Day center fielder. Ankiel will platoon with Jerry Hairston Jr. at the position.
Ankiel won the spot over Morgan and Bernadina because he is superior defensively. The Nationals are willing to deal with Ankiel’s many strikeouts that he brings as a hitter.
“I’m excited,” said Ankiel about being named the Opening Day center fielder. “During the spring, you try to be that every-day guy. It’s exciting.”
Ankiel said he takes pride in his defense, thanks to his mentor, former Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds, who won eight Gold Gloves during his career.
“Since my time with [Edmonds], I work on that communication, make sure you get it right [in the outfield] and try to be really good out there,” Ankiel said.
Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche received an MRI on his left shoulder and the doctors found a slight tear in his rotator cuff.
LaRoche received a cortisone shot recently and is expected to play as a designated hitter against the Braves on Monday night. He will play first base against the Mets the next day.
“There is a little bit of fraying on the labrum and from what I’ve been told, that is nothing unusual,” LaRoche said on Sunday. “They don’t have to [operate] on it, obviously. It’s just some more rehab and strengthening the muscles. … I’ll take today off and play tomorrow.”
LaRoche has had shoulder problems ever since he arrived in camp. The pain grew worse and it forced him to miss the first few games of the exhibition season.
There are four teams — Athletics, Astros, Braves and Padres — who are showing strong interest in Nationals infielder Alberto Gonzalez, according to a Major League scout.
Gonzalez has had a productive Spring Training in 2011, going 20-for-53 [.377] with two RBIs. However, Gonzalez most likely will not be a fit with the club because they are expected to put Alex Cora on the 25-man roster. Cora is considered more of a leader and a person who can play all four infield positions.
The Nationals have been looking to trade Gonzalez for weeks. If they don’t get a deal done, the Nationals most likely will designate Gonzalez for assignment because he is out of Minor League options.
Gonzalez has been with the Nationals for two-plus seasons. His best year with the club was in 2009, when he hit .265 with one home run 33 RBIs.
The Nationals and Cardinals found themselves in scuffle in the top of the seventh inning Monday afternoon.
In that inning, with one out and the Nationals leading, 4-2, Cardinals right-hander and former National Miguel Batista hit shortstop Ian Desmond with a pitch. As he was walking toward first base, Desmond was arguing with Albert Pujols. Suddenly, both benches emptied, but no punches were thrown.
The two teams scuffled for about 15 minutes with Nationals manager Jim Riggleman and Cardinals skipper Tony LaRussa having a few words.
It mark third time a hitter was hit by a pitch during the game. Laynce Nix was hit by a Chris Carpenter pitch in the top of the fifth inning, while Colby Rasmus was plunked in the bottom of the inning by Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez.
A few hours after Nationals right-hander Cole Kimball was sent to Minor League camp, MLB.com asked a baseball source this question: With Kimball sent to the Minors, does this mean Drew Storen will be on the 25-man roster?
The source made it clear that Storen could still be sent to Minor League camp. On Friday, Storen left it open for a possible demotion, pitching one inning and allowing three runs on four hits during a 10-4 loss to the Cardinals.
Storen entered the game in the seventh inning with the Cardinals leading 6-4. He allowed a two-run homer to Daniel Descalso and a solo homer to Mark Hamilton. For the season, Storen has allowed nine earned runs in 6 1/3 innings.
“He must be throwing the ball in the sweet zone — in the middle of the plate — for them to hit the ball the way they did,” Riggleman said about Storen’s outing Friday. “We don’t make excuses, he is just not getting them out.”
The Nationals reassigned catcher Derek Norris to Double A Harrisburg on Thursday afternoon. Norris was 3-for-15 [.200] with four walks and an RBI.
Norris was a long shot to make the Major League team out of Spring Training. Wilson Ramos and Ivan Rodriguez are currently battling to be the Opening Day starter behind the plate. If Ramos wins the job, for example, Rodriguez will be the backup unless general manager Mike Rizzo decides to trade Rodriguez.
If Rodriguez is traded, it most likely means Jesus Flores will be the backup catcher.