The Washington Times - December 23, 2011, 09:31AM

Now that the dust has settled and left-hander Gio Gonzalez is expected to take his physical sometime today to finalize the five-player trade that brought him to Washington and shipped four of the Nationals’ best prospects to Oakland, let’s take a look at where things stand for the Nationals pitching staff.

Here are the primary candidates right now** for the Nationals 12-man pitching staff:


** And let’s all keep in mind there are still about two months left in the offseason so things can change.

Starting pitchers:

RHP Stephen Strasburg

RHP Jordan Zimmermann

LHP Gio Gonzalez

RHP Chien-Ming Wang

LHP John Lannan

LHP Ross Detwiler

Relief pitchers:

RHP Drew Storen

RHP Tyler Clippard

RHP Henry Rodriguez

RHP Ryan Mattheus

RHP Ryan Perry

RHP Craig Stammen

RHP Yunesky Maya

LHP Sean Burnett

LHP Tom Gorzelanny

LHP Atahualpa Severino

As I’m sure most of you have already counted, that’s 16 pitchers — and it doesn’t include the likes of Cole Kimball (who’ll be out until at least the All-Star break recovering from rotator cuff surgery) and LHP Matt Purke, who’s on the Nationals 40-man roster by way of the major league deal he signed last August but will not be making the team out of camp.

So let’s figure out the Nationals’ options here.

Gonzalez is a bona-fide front of the rotation starter — just like the Nationals have said ad-nauseam that they were looking for — so he’ll slot into the top three in the rotation somewhere behind or between Strasburg and Zimmermann. 

That leaves the final two rotation spots for Wang and Lannan** with Detwiler waiting in the wings for when the team inevitably needs another starter — as well as a ready, willing and more-than-adequate starter to slot in late in the season if and when Strasburg hits his innings limit. For the time being, he could serve as a long man and remain on a starter’s schedule in the bullpen — which Nationals manager Davey Johnson was a proponent of last season. Detwiler is out of options so sending him back to the minor leagues is not a possibility as he would surely get picked up when the Nationals tried to pass him through waivers.

Still, you could do a poll of the entire Nationals’ front office and coaching staff tomorrow and you wouldn’t find anyone who’d tell you they’ll be fine with five starters. No team in baseball gets through a season without extra starters so, at this point, and due to his contractual limitations, that’s where Detwiler comes in.

** It’s an impressive fact that speaks to the Nationals’ progress and talent that Lannan, who was the team’s Opening Day starter in 2009 and 2010, would be their No. 4 or 5 starter this season.

So now for the bullpen.

Storen and Clippard are secure in their roles as the team’s closer and eighth-inning man. Burnett will serve as the team’s primary left-handed reliever and Rodriguez and Mattheus project to share the seventh-inning type of situations with Perry in the mix for that role as well.  

Gorzelanny figures to be a swingman — a possible emergency starter, long man and even late-inning reliever if necessary, with Stammen possibly serving the same role as a right-hander. As it stands, Maya and Severino are probably the most likely to find themselves back at Triple-A to being the year.

Spring training performances will almost certainly figure into these decisions (at least as the Opening Day roster is concerned), helping to whittle their choices, and any future moves could also affect these configurations. 

Now it’s your turn: Taking the 16 pitchers above, how would you fill out the Nationals’ 12-man pitching staff?