Nationals' Rotation Updates: Matt Williams Talks Next Five Games, Doug Fister

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals' Manager Matt Williams told reporters today that the Nats were taking advantage of the off day on Monday to realign the rotation after altering it last week. Gio Gonzalez will go tonight, then Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan.

Tanner Roark was spotted in the bullpen during Sunday's game against the Atlanta Braves, so, of course, Washington Nationals' Manager Matt Williams was asked afterwards if Roark was preparing to be available in that game or just getting some work in? "He was available," the Nats' skipper said. "Light side certainly in the pen to get a feel and if we had to use him late we'd use him late."

So why would he have been available to pitch on Sunday after starting in New York in the series finale with the Mets in Citi Field on Thursday? "Well, I guess we can answer that question on Tuesday," Williams said, "but he was available today with the off day coming."

"So the next five will be Gio [Gonzalez tonight], [Jordan Zimmermann], [Stephen Strasburg], Tanner [Roark, Taylor [Jordan]." - Matt Williams on Nats' rotation for next five games

Williams' comments led to speculation, with the likeliest scenario being the Nationals changing things up again after adjusting for the fact that Jordan Zimmermann experienced flu-like symptoms and was pushed back from Thursday to Friday's home opener.

In today's pregame press conference, the Nationals' first-year bench manager explained that it was in fact the case.

"So the next five will be Gio [Gonzalez tonight], [Zimmermann], [Stephen Strasburg], Tanner, Taylor [Jordan]. With the off day, we were able to move it around a little bit."

Asked if Roark's numbers against the Braves (1-0, 13 scoreless innings, two walks, 12 Ks, .098/.140/.098 line against) had anything to do with lining the 27-year-old right-hander up for another outing against Atlanta, Williams said no.

"You look at the season and say, 'If we have an off day, where can we switch things, keeping guys on normal [rest]. So that's all it is. It's just a function of normal rest and and the ability -- you know, you guys asked me the other day why Tanner was throwing in the bullpen, we had this plan going into the off day, so it's just the way we set it up."

The Nats' skipper also said he wants to get Strasburg as many starts as possible this season while keeping him on regular rest.

"He's our no.1 guy," Williams explained. "He started on Opening Day. So you certainly want your no.1 going as many times during the course of a season as you can." - Matt Williams on Stephen Strasburg

"He's our no.1 guy," Williams explained. "He started on Opening Day. So you certainly want your no.1 going as many times during the course of a season as you can. There's no set plan in that regard, because there are further off days coming and we just don't know. His workload may get to the point where we have to give him an extra day. But as of right now it's on normal rest and we're going to keep it that way as much as possible. From now until the end of the month, we've got a pretty good stretch of games in a row, so that's the way we set it up."

Williams also updated reporters on right-hander Doug Fister, who's been working his way back from a minor right lat strain suffered in a minor league start in Florida as he worked to build arm strength after elbow inflammation set him back this spring.

Asked if Fister threw again today, Williams said, "He did. Out to 120 [feet]. All indications afterward were that he felt good. So, we'll continue that process and reevaluate the next couple of days where he's going from there."

The next step?

"I think probably the progression is more flat ground," Williams explained, "you know to a catcher as opposed just throwing. We may stretch him just a touch further before he gets to flat ground and then get him on a mound but we'll see how he feels and then we'll progress from there, so I'll have more details for you guys tomorrow."

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