VIERA, Fla. -- We're approaching the one-week mark of spring training, which means a couple of things: 1) Position players are about to join the mix (the first full-squad workout takes place tomorrow), 2) The coaching staff is starting to put together a pitching game plan for the exhibition season.
Davey Johnson and Steve McCatty were mapping out that pitching plan yesterday and appear to have a system in place (though they aren't revealing specific details yet, like who will pitch on what day).
This much we know: The Nationals have 10 starting pitchers in camp who need to be stretched out over the course of the spring. Those 10 starters: Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan, Ross Detwiler, Tom Gorzelanny, Craig Stammen and Yunesky Maya.
How will the Nats make sure all 10 guys get enough work to build up arm strength and stamina entering the season? Johnson said he'll pair them all up in groups of two, then have them "piggyback" off each other through the first few weeks of exhibition games.
For example, let's say Strasburg and Detwiler are paired up. Strasburg would start a game and pitch, say, three innings. Detwiler would then come in and throw three innings himself before handing the rest of the game over to the bullpen.
That system can work for a little while because Johnson doesn't plan to use his relievers more than every third day in the early portion of the Grapefruit League schedule. Eventually, those relievers will need to start appearing more often. At the same time, the starters will need to extend themselves to the point they're throwing five or even six innings.
So there will need to be some finagling of the system later on this spring, either by sending some of those starters to minor-league camp to pitch in "B" games or by sending them to the minors altogether.
One thing to keep in mind: Don't read too much into the order of the rotation during the first portion of exhibition play. Johnson said yesterday he doesn't plan to really start lining guys up for the first week of the season until mid-March.