Asked during an interview this week on the Mike and Mike in the Morning Show on ESPN Radio to assure Washington Nationals fans that he would be available if the Nats make it to the postseason again this October, 24-year-old right-hander Stephen Strasburg took a measured approach to his response. "Well you know, I'm doing everything I can," the '09 no.1 overall pick said, "I put in a lot of work this offseason to really work on the strength and conditioning level, and I want to do everything I can to stay healthy throughout the season, so hopefully that will go according to plan, but unfortunately, you can't really predict what will happen." Four starts and 14.0 innings into Grapefruit League action things are going fairly well for the Nationals' ace.
Heading into his fifth start of the Spring tonight, Strasburg's given up 15 hits and nine runs, all earned, while striking out 18 batters. Earlier this week, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson "reluctantly" told reporters that for the second year in a row it would be Strasburg on the mound on Opening Day when the Nationals take on the Miami Marlins in the nation's capital. "I think you guys pretty much know," Johnson joked before making it official, "You always are trying to get me to say something about two weeks ahead of time."
"I guess you want me to say it?" the Nationals' manager asked before stating matter-of-factly, "He's going to be my Opening Day starter."
"You drug it out of me," Johnson laughed. "He's just got great stuff. He's very dedicated. He works very hard. That's a great honor. We've got a lot of great starters in [our] rotation." The 70-year-old manager did break some news about the rotation this afternoon according to reporters on the scene at the Nationals' Spring home, Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium, where they'll take on the Houston Astros tonight at 6:05 pm EST in a game that's being broadcast on MASN and MLB.tv:
So Strasburg on Opening Day, Gio Gonzalez for Game 2 of 162, then Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler. Barring any injuries, setbacks or hiccups, of course.
To go along with their Opening Day starter on the mound, the Nationals are sending what looks like it will be their OD lineup out tonight to take on the AL West's Astros:
#Nationals lineup tonight vs. HOU: Span 8, Werth 9, Harper 7, Zimmerman 5, LaRoche 3, Desmond 6, Espinosa 4,Ramos 2, Strasburg 1— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) March 16, 2013
• Game Time: 6:05 pm EST and once again, it's on MASN and MLB.tv. So, Who's Watching the Nationals?