Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fresh Arms

The Washington Nationals’ 2009 rotation is set. The decision to option right-handed pitcher Collin Balester to AAA Syracuse on Saturday ended the spring training competition to make the Nats’ starting rotation. This move leaves John Lannan, Scott Olsen, Daniel Cabrera, Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmerman as the team’s starters.

Manager Manny Acta was quoted in an article on the Nationals’ Web site saying that he prefers the admittedly young rotation to the mix of inexperience and veteran retreads that have become a staple of the Nationals’ inept starting pitching the last few years.

In fact, the Nationals have not had a legitimate front-line starter since their move to Washington. The closest they have come was Livan Hernandez, who became a fan favorite as much for his ability to hit home runs as for his skill in getting batters out.

Perhaps the Nationals’ bad luck in the starting pitching department is the curse of Pedro Martinez, who the organization (as the Montreal Expos) traded in 1997. Since then, Martinez has compiled a record of 139-60, was named to six All-star teams and won two Cy Young Awards. However, there is hope because Martinez is still a free agent, and one of the teams rumored to be considering the aging righty is, you guessed it, the Washington Nationals. Maybe, a signing of Martinez would reverse the curse.

Another, less superstitious, option for the transformation of the Nationals’ rotation could actually be a product of the Nats’ embarrassing play during their time in Washington. This potential savior is named Stephen Strasburg and is a 20-year-old junior right-handed starter from San Diego State University. In 2008, Strasburg was the only collegiate player to represent the United States in the Beijing Olympics. However, this is not what has the scouts abuzz and many predicting that the Nationals will pick him with the number one pick that they owe to their 59-102 record in 2008. It is his ability to light up radar guns and his immediate front-of-the-rotation potential that has him on everybody’s radar.

Here’s hoping that the Nationals improve on their 2008 record, that the curse of Pedro is reversed and that they pay the money necessary to sign Strasburg and bring his 103 mph heat to Nationals Park.

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