LAKELAND, Fla. — When Nationals manager Jim Riggleman was pondering his 2011 lineup this winter, he called Jayson Werth to discuss things with him.
Werth had hit in a lot of different places in the Phillies lineup, from third all the way to sixth, and while the two were discussing it, Werth brought up the one spot Riggleman had been thinking most about: second.
The right fielder will bat second Thursday night when the Nationals take on the Tigers at 6:05, and Riggleman said chances are good that he’ll bat there for much of this season.
“I talked to Werth, he really wants to do that, Mike (Rizzo) wants to do it,” Riggleman said. “I’ve thought about it a lot and I’ve been encouraged to do it so the likelihood is that’s the way it will go.”
Werth has started a game batting second 94 times in his career with a .252 average, .340 OBP and .475 SLG to show for it. He’s also hit 22 homers, driven in 57 and walked 48 times from that spot.
With Werth batting second, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse could follow in the three, four and five spots.
“With two and three being Werth and Zim, they’re both pretty good OBP guys,” Riggleman said.”So I feel like that’s a chance for us to get at least one base runner, maybe two, when our fourth hitter comes up.”
“I think he feels like, ‘I get on base, I see more pitches than anybody in the league, I can score runs, run the bases and still drive in runs, too,’” Riggleman added. “I think that probably fits our club the best.”
— Chad Gaudin will pitch out of the bullpen to start the season, meaning Tom Gorzelanny will be the team’s fifth starter to begin the year. Gaudin, who last pitched in a minor league game on Sunday, will likely be used out of the bullpen Friday or Saturday.
— Riggleman also revealed a little more about the order of his starting rotation once Livan Hernandez pitches on opening day. Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannan will be the No. 2 and No. 3 guys, but the Nationals aren’t sure yet who will be No. 2 and who will go No. 3.
Jason Marquis will be the No. 4 starter with Gorzelanny at No. 5.
The Nationals have two offdays in the first five days of the season, so the team is still undecided as to whether or not they will run their starters out in order, 1-5, or if they will skip Gorzelanny the first time through and use him in relief at the start.
They will not be leaving anyone behind in Florida in favor of carrying an extra reliever or bench player at the season’s start.
— As for the bullpen, things could get a little less crowded in the coming days as Riggleman said today that while Henry Rodriguez was working in the bullpen with pitching coach Steve McCatty on his mechanics he felt some spasms in his neck.
Rodriguez did go to the doctor and was given some treatement that helped ease that pain. He threw long toss on Thursday but with less than a week until the final rosters are due, it’s doubtful he’ll pitch in a game before then, meaning it’s likely the out-of-options right-hander will begin the season on the disabled list.
Here are the lineups for the Nationals game with the Tigers:
Nyjer Morgan DH
Jayson Werth RF
Adam LaRoche 1B
Michael Morse LF
Rick Ankiel CF
Ian Desmond SS
Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B
Ivan Rodriguez C
Danny Espinosa 2B
— Jordan Zimmermann P
Austin Jackson CF
Will Rhymes 2B
Magglio Ordonez RF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Brennan Boesch LF
Jhonny Peralta SS
Alex Avila C
Brandon Inge 3B
— Rick Porcello P