The Washington Times - December 21, 2009, 06:52PM

With the Nationals’ signing of right-hander Jason Marquis to what’s believed to be a two-year contract worth $15 million, the team has the veteran starter they’ve been after all winter. It’s not a guarantee the Nationals are done shopping for pitching before spring training, but if it is, here’s how the rotation might look on Opening Day:

No 1: John Lannan


No. 2: Jason Marquis

No. 3: Scott Olsen

Then, pick two from the following group: Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiler, Collin Balester, Garrett Mock, Shairon Martis, J.D. Martin, Matt Chico and Stephen Strasburg.

My guess right now is it’s Stammen and Detwiler, unless Martis regains his early-2009 form or Strasburg is so good the Nats brass doesn’t feel it can send him to the minors. But when you go to 2011 and add Jordan Zimmermann back to the mix, things get even more promising. Here’s one scenario:

No. 1: Lannan

No. 2: Marquis

No. 3: Strasburg

No. 4: Zimmermann

No. 5: Olsen, another veteran or one of the other youngsters.

And that assumes Strasburg isn’t good enough by that point to ascend further up the rotation. If he is, and Zimmermann comes back healthy and strong, you can see things coming together for a breakout season.

The key, obviously, is Strasburg. If he’s as good as advertised, he’s probably an ace by 2011, and the Nats have the makings of a rotation roughly as good as the one the Rockies used to win the wild card this season (which included Marquis). If he isn’t everything he’s supposed to be, then you have to hope for another free agent to be the ace, or get by without a true stopper.

But the addition of Marquis is a start. He’s an innings-eater with a solid sinker that can show Lannan and Stammen how to win with similar repertoires and approaches. Plus, he’s got a good bat for a pitcher.

The sooner you can make him a back-of-the-rotation guy, the better chance you’re on the way to contending.