The Washington Times - April 5, 2012, 09:02AM

CHICAGO — Well, we made it.

It was just about seven weeks ago that the Nationals began pouring in to the team’s complex in Viera, Fla., ready to get spring training underway. They came through it with a few bumps and bruises (bet they didn’t expect to start the season without their closer AND their cleanup hitter) but on the whole, they survived.


The occasion has been tarnished a bit by the ongoing situation with John Lannan, one of the team’s longest-tenured players, who was demoted to Triple-A at the 11th hour on Tuesday and has subsequently asked Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo to trade him. Whether Rizzo will address the situation today, we’ll have to wait and see.

There are plenty of good friends of Lannan’s in the Nationals’ clubhouse — but they all know on some level that baseball is a business and this is an ugly side of it. Chances are, for most, it won’t dampen the excitement of the day. They’ll arrive at Wrigley Field in a few hours with the same fresh anticipation that each Opening Day brings.

It’s Opening Day, 2012, and life, at least in baseball, begins anew.

Teams and fanbases across the country are allowed on Opening Day to believe that this season will be different. That maybe their team will be the last one standing at the end, on a cold October night. Perhaps for the Nationals and their fans in particular, this Opening Day brings more hope than any other.

We already know the lineup manager Davey Johnson will run out for Game No. 1 of 162:


Ian Desmond SS
Danny Espinosa 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Jayson Werth RF
Mark DeRosa LF
Roger Bernadina CF
Wilson Ramos C
Stephen Strasburg P


David DeJesus RF
Darwin Barney 2B
Starlin Castro SS
Alfonso Soriano LF
Ian Stewart 3B
Jeff Baker 1B
Marlon Byrd CF
Geovany Soto C
Ryan Dempster P 

To get you in the mood and help you kill the time before the first pitch is thrown at 2:20 (ET), here are all the links you need:

Chicago is a fitting place for the Nationals’ 2012 campaign to begin, for Mark DeRosa who had his best years here, and for the team he sees great things out of this season.

Dan Daly says the Nationals demotion of John Lannan proves they’re not the same as in the past.

And once more, a link to our 14-page preview section that includes stories on:

— The Nationals revamped rotation and whether they will one day find themselves in the same class as great units of the past.

— The Big Four in the team’s rotation telling you about their best pitches.

— Newest National Gio Gonzalez and his one-of-a-kind family, who allowed me to share dinner with them one night this spring.

— Stephen Strasburg close to having the full break back on his curveball, 19 months removed from Tommy John surgery.

— Nationals phenom Bryce Harper learning center field in what everyone hopes will be his final minor league stint.

— The mind of Drew Storen, which moves quicker than his fastball, as he and our Nathan Fenno brave a Bikram Yoga session.

— The Nationals bullpen, which has come a long way from the 2009 unit that was the worst in all of baseball.

— Capsules on the Nationals’ prospects to watch at each level.

Links to each individual story can also be found on our main baseball page.