Nationals tweaking starting rotation order

Nationals tweaking starting rotation order
April 8, 2014, 6:15 pm
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The Nationals are tweaking the order of their rotation, bumping Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg up to face the Marlins the next two days while pushing Tanner Roark back to face the Braves on Friday night.

Using Monday's day off as an opportunity to reconfigure things, manager Matt Williams decided to push his top two right-handers up one day apiece, keeping them on a normal, five-day schedule.

"You look at the season and say: 'If we have an off day, where can we switch things, keeping guys on normal (rest)?'" Williams said. "So that's all. Just a function of rest and the ability (to do it)."

The Nationals had already been forced to shake up their rotation plans last week when Zimmermann came down with a stomach virus and couldn't make his season debut Thursday in New York. This move puts the 19-game winner back where he originally was slotted, behind Gio Gonzalez.

Williams could have simply put Roark back in his original spot as well, having the young right-hander start Thursday's series finale against Miami. Instead, Strasburg is now being pushed up to make that start, with Roark pushed back to open this weekend's series in Atlanta.

Thus, Strasburg has been on a strict, five-day pitching schedule to open the season, a plan that could stay intact as the Nationals attempt to squeeze an extra start or two out of their ace.

"You certainly want your No. 1 going as many times during the course of a season as you can," Williams said. "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've got to get 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."

For what it's worth, Strasburg has struggled at times in his career against the Braves, especially in Atlanta. In 13 career starts vs. the Braves, he is 3-5 with a 3.86 ERA. He's 1-2 with a 5.79 ERA in six career starts at Turner Field.

Meanwhile, injured No. 4 starter Doug Fister threw off flat ground from 120 feet Tuesday and reported no problems with his strained lat muscle. Williams said the right-hander will likely throw to a catcher off flat ground soon, then progress to throwing off a bullpen mound.

Once he's ready to face live hitters, Fister will likely build his arm up slowly, making anywhere from 3-to-5 rehab starts as though he was still in spring training.