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Gio Gonzalez tossed three scoreless innings on Tuesday.
With five Grapefruit League games now in the books, every contender for a spot in the Nationals' Opening Day rotation has had a chance to take the mound and make a case for himself. All have succeeded to at least some level, and several have gone above and beyond to impress.
Jordan Zimmermann was the latest to turn in a strong outing yesterday, scattering three hits over three scoreless innings while striking out three. Add Zimmermann's performance to the four others who have started games so far this spring (Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and John Lannan) and the Nationals rotation has combined to post a sparkling 1.98 ERA to date.
That doesn't include Chien-Ming Wang, who was sharp himself during a two-inning outing against minor leaguers on Monday and will next start Saturday against the Mets in Viera.
Spring training stats, of course, are as insignificant as the name of the all-time home run champion of Kyrgyzstan. So don't get too excited yet. But the Nationals couldn't have asked for a much better opening act out of their starters, and not only in the statistical department.
For the first time since the franchise arrived in town, the rotation is loaded with power arms. Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gonzalez and Jackson all have the ability to reach 95 mph with their fastballs.
Combine that power with the efficiency displayed by these guys so far: Four of the five starters pitched at least 2 2/3 innings in their first appearance, and Jackson could have done it himself but was sent to the bullpen after two innings to get some extra work and give Ross Detwiler a chance to pitch.
Round 2 of the spring begins today when Jackson takes the mound to face the Astros. Strasburg will follow Friday night against the Marlins, with Wang and Lannan each starting split-squad games Saturday against the Mets and Tigers, Gonzalez drawing the Cardinals on Sunday and Zimmermann getting a rematch with St. Louis on Monday.
Manager Davey Johnson will let each guy go four innings or 60 pitches this time around, as the group builds up arm strength. But it'll be tough to top the first turn through the rotation.