Spring Training - Game Thread: Houston At Washington. Nationals Make Cuts, Set '09 Starting Rotation.

A Tale Of Three Starters...

Last night, at Port St. Lucie, Florida's Tradition Field, New York Mets' ace Johan Santana threw 7.0 innings against the Washington Nationals in which he allowed just 4 hits and 1 ER, going up against the Nationals' Opening Day starter John Lannan, who held it close at 2-1 NY through five, but got in trouble the sixth when he issued a leadoff walk to Luis Castillo:

"Luis Castillo takes a high 3-1 pitch for a leadoff walk in the sixth. Castillo’s running as David Wright lines a single to left. Carlos Delgado flies to Josh Willingham in left, who starts back and charges in to make the grab. Carlos Beltran skies a fly ball to Lastings Milledge in center. Two down, Fernando Tatis takes a fastball back up the middle for a two-out RBI single. 3-1 Mets..."

Lannan was out after the sixth, giving up 7 hits,1 BB and 3 ER, with 2 K's, 12 ground ball outs, and 4 fly outs from the 26 batters he faced. Santana, in only his third start of the Spring, retired the last 10 batters he faced and probably could've pitched a complete game, but Francisco Rodriguez and Pedro Feliciano needed some work...

Meanwhile...

In Fort Worth, Texas' Fulton Stadium, San Diego State University starter Stephen Strasburg surrendered 2 ER on 3 H, (1 a HR) in 8.0 IP against the nationally ranked TCU Horned Frogs. Strasburg struck out 14 Horned Frogs in his fifth win, and is now (5-0) in six starts and 42.1 IP this season, over which he's now allowed 24 hits, 9 R, 8 earned and 8 walks while collecting 88 K's and posting a 1.70 ERA, holding opponents to a .161 AVG. (ed.  note - "I'll not mention who else is pitching in Ft. Worth these days, for those of you who don't remember or have chosen to forget...")

John Lannan Learns Who His Opening Day Opponent On The Mound Will Be...

Florida Marlins' Manager Fredi Gonzalez announced Friday that Ricky Nolasco would take the mound in Dolphin Stadium next Monday, April the 6th, to face John Lannan and the Washington Nationals in the first game of each team's 2009 season. According to MLB.com writer Joe Frisaro's article entitled, "Marlins give Nolasco nod in opener", the Marlins' Manager saw the start as a way to repay Nolasco, who, "...was outstanding for us last year, 200-something innings...He earned that, for me." 

When the Washington Nationals announced that John Lannan would get the Opening Day start, it was the "Acting" GM Mike Rizzo who explained the decision to MLB.com's Bill Ladson in an article entitled, "Nats tap Lannan for Opening Day start", in which Mr. Rizzo praised Lannan's:

"...command of all his pitches, the poise on the mound beyond his years and his competitiveness of the mound."

Lannan told Washington Post writer Chico Harlan last night, in a post game Nationals Journal post entitled, "The Mets Feel Like The Mets", that he was ready for Opening Day, which is now just over a week away, and the 24-year-old lefty, thinks he's peaking at just the right time:

"All my pitches were working. I only threw one curveball, but change-up felt good, fastball, I was able to locate it, and -- did I say change-up already? My slider was working, too."

But before Lannan and Nolasco and the Nationals and Marlins meet on April 6th...

Stephen Strasburg's next start...is April 3rd at Petco Park...

But Before Any of That...

The Washington National welcome the Houston Astros to Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida for a 1:05 pm EST start this afternoon. DC lefty Scott Olsen is expected to pitch for the home team against the Astros' Jose Capellan. 

Breaking News: Nationals Make Cuts...

According to Washington Post writer Chico Harlan, in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Martis, Zimmerman Make Rotation, Pena Place On Waivers", the Washington Nationals have officially announced that Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmermann will fill in the fourth and fifth spots in the Nationals' '09 rotation, with Zimmermann to start the season in Triple-A and return when the 5th starter is needed in several weeks.

The Nationals also announced that they had placed Wily Mo Pena on waivers, and assigned Collin Balester to Triple-A Syracuse. Jose Castillo and Corey Patterson were assigned to Minor League camp, while one of the three catchers who was battling for a backup spot behind Jesus Flores (who is scheduled to return today), Javier Valentin opted for free agency rather that accept his demotion. 

More on the moves when it's avaiable...

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