The Washington Times - March 13, 2013, 10:51AM

VIERA, Fla. — Stephen Strasburg will start on Opening Day for the Washington Nationals for the second consecutive season, manager Davey Johnson confirmed on Wednesday morning.

The announcement was mere formality, Strasburg the unquestioned ace of a Nationals’ staff filled with talent, and Johnson was reluctant to make it official with still more than two weeks to go before Opening Day because of how well-known it already seemed to be.

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“I think you guys pretty much know,” Johnson said on a quiet morning at the Nationals complex with half of the players in camp traveling to Kissimmee to play the Houston Astros while most of the regulars remained in Viera to face the New York Mets. 

“I guess you want me to say it,” he said. “(Strasburg’s) going to be my Opening Day starter. You drug it out of me.” 

When Strasburg was told about the Opening Day assignment last season it was clear it was a special day for the right-hander. Pitching coach Steve McCatty delivered the news to him in a special meeting and, preparing to start his first full season after 2010 Tommy John surgery, Strasburg talked about how much it’d mean to him to get the year’s first start.

That assignment, of course, came with the caveat that all of Strasburg’s 2012 season carried: at some point it would be halted before its natural end. This year he has no such limits and he can take the Opening Day start with the hope that his final one won’t come until deep into October.

“He’s just got great stuff, he’s very dedicated and works very hard,” Johnson said of Strasburg. “That’s a great honor. I’ve got a lot of great starters in my rotation. But I know this is going to be easier this year (for him without) the pitch limit.”

The rest of the rotation was not announced, but it would be a surprise if Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann didn’t fall in line as No.’s 2 and 3, as they were in 2012.

It’s likely that Ross Detwiler will get the fourth start of the season and Dan Haren the fifth, simply so the Nationals can have a rotation that alternates between right-handers and left-handers all the way through, but that is not set in stone.