Continued from page 1

When Gonzalez arrived in Viera, Fla., this spring, after years with the A’s spent hearing how great their Big Three used to be, he talked about how much pressure the Nationals’ signing of Jackson took off him. And how much he felt like he could take off Strasburg and Zimmermann. The idea being that one man doesn’t have to carry the burden of being exceptional every fifth day. Strasburg may always be the headliner, but perhaps the days of him being the only guy who can sell out the park are dwindling.

The expectation that the Nationals — who some pundits still feel may be a year away from truly contending - could find themselves among those legendary units soon may be lofty. But as Strasburg prepares to take the mound Thursday in Chicago for his first Opening Day start, even they feel it’s not unreasonable.

“This is absolutely the best rotation we’ve had here,” McCatty said. “I don’t think any [expectations] are unfair. We have a chance to make the playoffs. … I would be disappointed if we didn’t.”