VIERA, Fla. — The Nationals’ newest acquisition will start their first spring training game. Edwin Jackson, the right-hander who agreed to a one-year deal with the Nationals just more than two weeks before spring training, is slated to start the team’s Grapefruit League opener on March 3 against the Houston Astros.
As they begin to lay out their spring rotation, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Friday that Jackson will be the first starter to go. John Lannan will start on the fifth in Port St. Lucie against the New York Mets and Jordan Zimmermann will start March 7 at home against the St. Louis Cardinals. Chien-Ming Wang will throw a simulated game on March 5 as well.
Johnson offered no hints at who would start the team’s exhibition game against Georgetown University on March 2, other than that it wouldn’t be a “regular” starter. He did tell two reporters that guesses of Yunesky Maya and Craig Stammen were incorrect.
Presumably, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez will slot into the Nationals’ rotation on March 4 and March 6 when they play at home against the Astros (3/4) and in Orlando against the Atlanta Braves (3/6), but Johnson said he’d reveal the rest of the rotation on Saturday.
In his view, the Nationals have 10 possible starters in camp this spring: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmerman, Jackson, Lannan, Wang, Ross Detwiler, Tom Gorzelanny, Stammen and Maya. If, for example, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmerman, Jackson and Lannan start the team’s first five games, each one will be followed to the mound by one of the other five: Wang, Detwiler, Gorzelanny, Stammen and Maya.
A word of caution, though, not to read too much into the Nationals’ rotation plans at this point. Obviously there are some certainties (barring injuries) but Johnson has noted before that he and pitching coach Steve McCatty will be setting up the schedule so that, later in spring, they’re on track for the way they’d like things set when Opening Day rolls around.
Jackson earned the nod in the first spring game for two reasons. First, it gives Johnson a chance to see the team’s most recent acquisition first so they can get a better idea of him and, second, he’s asked them not to judge him based only his bullpen sessions, even though he impressed on Friday.
“He had mentioned to McCatty, ‘Don’t go by my bullpens, don’t grade me on my bullpens because they’re always terrible,’” Johnson said. “But his bullpen today was up a notch.”
The Nationals’ pitchers will not throw on Saturday at all, giving them all an extra day off before the team starts live batting practice sessions on Monday.