VIERA, Fla. -- Good morning from soggy Space Coast Stadium, where a torrential downpour earlier soaked the field. And there's more rain expected later this morning.
The Nationals have, however, decided to commence their morning workout. Sounds like they're going to try to squeeze in as much as they can -- including another round of live BP featuring Stephen Strasburg -- before the skies open again.
Speaking of Strasburg, Jim Riggleman once again this morning made it pretty clear the phenom won't be making the big-league roster on Opening Day. Saying the decision might be more "philosophical than based on performance," Riggleman suggested Strasburg could dominate hitters this spring but still be shipped out sometime later this month to build up his innings count in minor-league camp and then open the season in the minors.
For those who want to catch an early glimpse of the almighty right-hander, though, you now will be able to watch his debut next Tuesday against the Tigers. MASN has picked the game up and will be televising it both live at 1 p.m. and again on tape delay at 7 p.m.
In other rotation news, Scott Olsen will indeed start Monday against the Marlins, so the initial turn through the rotation is now set: Mock/Martin in split-squad games Thursday, Batista on Friday, Lannan on Saturday, Marquis on Sunday, Olsen on Monday, Strasburg on Tuesday.
By the time that first round is complete, Chien-Ming Wang will have returned to Viera following a rehab stint in Arizona, and that arrival is sure to draw more attention to this camp. Don't get too excited about Wang just yet, though, because he's still got plenty of rehab left, and all indications are that he won't be ready to pitch into the majors until sometime in May.
Which brings me to this point I've been wanting to make for a couple of weeks now: If the Nationals are going to have any chance of doing something out of this season beyond escaping the NL East cellar, they're going to have to come out of the gates firing in April. Unfortunately, the cards are going to be severely stacked against them.
Consider that Wang won't be ready until at least May, that Strasburg probably won't be around until May or June (or later), that Jesus Flores will almost certainly open the season on the DL, that Ross Detwiler probably won't be back until May or June and ... well, you get the idea. The Nats may resemble a legitimate big-league club sometime this summer, but will it be too late at that point to make any real noise?
Consider also the incredibly daunting schedule they're going to face in April and May. Of their first 40 games this season, 31 will come against clubs that finished over .500 last year. Six of their first nine games come against the two-time NL champion Phillies. Before the end of April, they'll also see the Brewers, Rockies, Dodgers and Cubs, with the Braves, Cardinals and Giants on the docket in May.
According to ESPN.com's Buster Olney, the Nats have the toughest early-season schedule in the National League. Not the kind of stretch you'd like to enter without some of your best weapons at your disposal.
And certainly the type of daunting stretch that could suck all the enthusiasm of spring training right out the window.