Washington's Starting Rotation Set...Nationals Will Start Odalis Perez On Opening Night.

In two consecutive starts, the Washington Nationals' young left-handers John Lannan and Matt Chico showed anyone who may have wondered, why the Nationals were willing to part with John Patterson, and enter the '08 season with the one of the two second-year pros and in the starting rotation.

Matt Chico (1-1, 3.58 ERA on the Spring), went 4.1 scoreless innings against the real New York Mets' squad, (minus Mets' catcher Brian Schneider), allowing just 6 hits and 1 walk while striking out two New York batters, before the Mets rallied for an 8-2 win over Washington. Today it was John Lannan who threw 6.0 innings of 3-hit ball for the Nationals, allowing 1 ER and 1 walk while striking out 2 Atlanta Braves' batters in a 4-1 Washington win, that improved Lannan's record to (2-0), with a 2.45 ERA this Spring.

After Chico's start, Nationals' Manager Manny Acta told Washington Post baseball writer Barry Svrluga, as quoted in a "Nationals Journal" post entitled, "Chico out of game, but in rotation" that, "We haven't made the final decision yet," as to who would be in the Nationals' starting rotation, but:

"'...I don't think a good or bad start is going to change our mind.' According to Acta, Chico, 24, 'went out the whole season for us last year and competed well under [difficult] circumstances, coming up from Double-A at such an early age. I think he did what he had to do last year. Our decision is almost made.'"

(ed. note- "...and check out the comments section of Mr. Svrluga's post to see the anger generated by Felipe Lopez's recent comments..."

John Lannan, for his part seemed to agree with his Manager's opinion, telling MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in an article entitled, "Lannan, Chico battling for No. 4 spot", that:

"'Chico was the workhorse last year. Whoever they pick deserves it," Lannan said. "They are all great pitchers. I don't even look at numbers. He went out there and had a good year. Last year, he was [almost] in the same boat as I was. He never pitched above Double-A. Given that, I thought he threw pretty well. He deserves to be up there."

New Nationals' catcher Paul Lo Duca also gave Chico a good review after Lo Duca debuted during Chico's start on Friday, and told Washington Times Sports writer Ben Goessling, in an article entitled, "Chico kicks it old school", that from behind the plate he observed:

"'I like it. He's getting the ball down in the strike zone, and he's throwing all four pitches for strikes,' said Paul Lo Duca, who caught Chico for the first time in a major league game yesterday. 'He's the kind of guy I like. He's definitely not scared, and that's huge.'"

But it's another Nationals' lefty, Odalis Perez, who's slated to start on Opening Night in Nationals Park against the Atlanta Braves and starter Tim Hudson one week from today in Washington, DC's new ballpark. Manager Manny Acta was the one who told an appreciative Odalis Perez the news, according to WTOP Radio sports writer Craig Heist, who quotes Perez in an article at www.wtop.com entitled, "Nats Beat the Braves; Perez named the Opening Day Starter", in which Perez recounts:

"'Manny called me in and told me, you're the number one,' said Perez. 'You will be the guy who gets the ball in game one. When he said those words to me, it was great and a great feeling. It makes me happy to be a part of this system and this organization.'"

Manny Acta tells Washington Post Sports writer Dave Sheinin, in an article entitled, "Veteran Perez Gets Start on Opening Day", that the veteran left-hander has:

"'...won more games [eight] than any one of our starters last year in the big leagues,' Manager Manny Acta said. 'He's the only one of our staff who has won 15 games before [in 2002]. And he has pitched well in spring training, too.'"

That 15-win season of Odalis Perez's was in '02 in Los Angeles, when the then-twenty-five year old from Las Matas de Farfan in the Dominican Republic had posted a (15-10) record with a 3.00 ERA and 155 K's in 222.1 IP on the mound. But the 30-year old is coming off an (8-11) season in Kansas City, where he pitched to a 5.56 ERA in 26 starts with 64 K's and 50 walks.

Odalis Perez, Shawn Hill (if healthy), Tim Redding, Jason Bergmann, and Matt Chico? This rotation is not exactly going to strike fear in the opposition, but when combined with an above-average bullpen, is it good enough to allow the Nationals to compete in the NL East? I assume Lannan will be right back up if Hill comes up injured or is at all delayed? We'll know for sure one week from tonight...

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