Photo by Rachel Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Drew Storen allowed his first runs of the spring last night.
The Nationals are playing split-squad games today -- home against the Marlins, on the road against the Cardinals in Jupiter -- and in a rarity, the manager and top starting pitcher are making the road trip. So John Lannan, Jim Riggleman and several other regulars are currently on a bus somewhere on I-95. Meanwhile, back here in Viera, bench coach John McLaren is leading the rest of the guys (including starter Craig Stammen) against the Marlins.
(Question: If the home team wins today but the road team loses, does Riggleman still get credit for managing the Nats' first win of the spring? I'm thinking no.)
This kind of got lost in the shuffle last night, but Drew Storen experienced his first hiccup of the spring. Gave up two runs and three hits to the Braves, the first time he's been scored upon this month and the first time he hasn't looked dominant.
I talked to Storen this morning about it, and as he pointed out, he really didn't do much different in this outing than in his previous three.
"I just made one bad pitch," he said. "I hung an 0-2 breaking ball [to Martin Prado, who drilled a two-run single up the middle] and that was really kind of the turning point."
This is something Storen is coming to realize about life in the major leagues. In college and in the minors, he could get away with one ill-thrown pitch. Here, not so much. "You can't make a mistake," he said. "Or you'll pay for it." ...
Meanwhile, the starting rotation is beginning to take some shape. We know Lannan (who starts today in Jupiter) and Jason Marquis (who starts tomorrow at the Astros) are the top two guys. And Riggleman all but anointed Garrett Mock another lock both before and after the right-hander's outing yesterday.
The other two spots? Well, it sure looks like it's set up for Livan Hernandez and Scott Olsen, provided of course both are healthy and somewhat effective this spring. Livo has been pitching on the same day as Stephen Strasburg so far, and that lines up perfectly with the season's third game (April 8 against the Phillies). Mock is lined up to start the fourth game (April 9 at the Mets).
If Olsen winds up the fifth starter, he'll need to have his schedule adjusted somewhat, though that shouldn't be much trouble. He's currently slated to pitch on Thursday, the Nationals' lone off-day of the spring, so he'll throw four innings in a minor-league game.
"That's all right," Olsen said. "I don't want to get off my schedule at all. That's more important than facing big leaguers."
It should be noted that Matt Chico also will throw Thursday behind Olsen, just as he did Saturday in Kissimmee. If Olsen somehow is not deemed healthy and doesn't make the squad, Chico could easily slide into that spot.