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Matt Williams: Max Scherzer to start Washington Nationals' Grapefruit League opener

He cautioned not to read anything in to it when it comes to the Washington Nationals' regular season rotation, but Nats' skipper Matt Williams named Max Scherzer the starter for the Grapefruit League opener vs the New York Mets on Thursday.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Second-year Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams told reporters on Monday that there was one question still to be answered before he announced which pitcher would start the Nats' Grapefruit League opener against the New York Mets on Thursday afternoon. When he met with reporters today, Williams provided the answer.

"Max [Scherzer] will start and we'll follow him up with Tanner Roark," Williams said.

"Two innings, 45-ish, depending on how it goes. Depending on how stressful those innings are. It won't surpass two, I don't think. Even if it's a quick two, we'll probably stay there. We have plenty of time to get ready."

"There's nothing to read into it other than he's going to get the ball on Thursday and then five days later he'll get it again." -Matt Williams on Scherzer starting first game of Spring

It's just the first game of the Spring of course, and there is a lot of work to be done before Opening Day, and a lot of innings between the first one of the year on Thursday, Opening Day and the final inning of 2015, whenever that's played. There are also a lot of pitchers in camp who need to get their work in.

"We've got 30 pitchers in camp and finding innings for everybody is important too," Williams explained.

The thinking behind picking Scherzer, who signed a 7-year/$210M free agent deal this winter, to start the Spring opener?

"Just he's ready," Williams said. "They're all ready. There's nothing to read into it other than he's going to get the ball on Thursday and then five days later he'll get it again."

Who's getting the nod in Game 1 of the Spring, after all, is not that important, really. So again, no reading into it, please.

"We do have off days," Williams explained. "We have two of them in the last week. Again, we have kind of a plan set out for Spring Training with some adjustments that can be made depending on off days, depending on everybody's health. But there's nothing to read into it."

It's far too early at this point to set anything in stone anyway, and even when you do...

"We talked about it yesterday," Williams said. "Last year we got into the third game and Jordan [Zimmermann] was sick. Remember that? So he had the flu and that was Game 3 of the season. So you just don't know."

Williams was also asked about designating a "no.1 starter" on a staff that has a number of pitchers who could qualify for that designation.

"Any of our guys have the ability to go win a game, and they've had great success in doing that," he said.

"I would liken it to the leadoff hitter. Once you get past the first inning, you have multiple leadoff hitters during the game. So it's important for those guys to get on base too.

"You get past the first week and you've got an off day and it's out the window too. Depending on what they're doing, depending on what you're doing, those matchups can be not necessarily 1-against-1, it could be 1-against-5 potentially depending on whether [the other teams] have an off day and you don't. All of our guys have the ability to go out there and compete and win games on any given day. And that's what we feel good about. So in that regard, they would all have that ability."

But it will be Max Scherzer taking the mound in the first competitive game of the year later this week.