- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2009

RIZZO NOT AFRAID TO GO YOUNG

VIERA, Fla. - For all the talk this winter about the need to bring in a veteran starting pitcher, the Washington Nationals appear more and more likely to open the season with the majors’ youngest rotation.

Barring a late-spring addition, the Nationals are poised to head north with a five-man rotation that boasts an average age of 24 and no one older than 27. John Lannan (24), Scott Olsen (25) and Daniel Cabrera (27) have already been named the top three starters by manager Manny Acta. The final spots will go to a pair of three 22-year-olds still in the running (Jordan Zimmermann, Shairon Martis and Collin Balester).

Acting general manager Mike Rizzo said the club “would certainly look into” acquiring a veteran starter instead of opening season with so many young pitchers but was quick to add, “I feel comfortable with the in-house candidates for the fourth and fifth spots.”

“We’re not out combing the wires or making a lot of phone calls asking for starting pitchers,” Rizzo said.

The latest strong showing by one of those young hurlers - Martis, who tossed six scoreless innings Tuesday to beat the Baltimore Orioles - underscored that sentiment. Martis has now posted a 1.42 ERA in five spring appearances (three starts) and has allowed just 10 hits in 19 innings, making the rookie right-hander a front-runner along with Zimmermann (3.14 ERA, 20 strikeouts, two walks) for the final two rotation spots.

NATIONALS 3, ORIOLES 1

Despite sending a roster short on big names and long on players called up from minor league camp for the day, Washington had no trouble handling Baltimore’s regulars in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Martis surrendered three hits and a walk over six scoreless innings, taking down an Orioles lineup that included Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Aubrey Huff and Matt Wieters.

Outfielder Roger Bernadina sparked the Nationals’ offense with a game-opening triple and a seventh-inning sacrifice fly.

- Mark Zuckerman

TEMPERATURE CHECK

UP - Shairon Martis

Seems to have all but locked up a rotation spot

UP - A full roster

Dunn, Hanrahan return from WBC

DOWN - Sending players to Fort Lauderdale

Nationals’ “B” squad included a 3-4-5 of Casto-Pena-Patterson

QUOTABLE

“March 17 when you have a dogpile at shortstop at Dolphin Stadium, it might look a little weird. But that kind of celebration is something that you want to do again.”

- Joel Hanrahan on being a part of Team USA’s come-from-behind win over Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic

WEDNESDAY’S WEATHER

Washington: P.M. showers, 50 degrees

Viera: Partly cloudy, 79 degrees

THREE-DAY SCHEDULE

Wednesday: vs. Braves in Viera, 7 p.m.

Thursday: Off

Friday: vs. Mets in Port St. Lucie, 7 p.m.


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