As the Nationals near the end of spring training and approach opening day, the starting rotation is beginning to take shape, and Craig Stammen appears to have secured a position. After having his season end last year with surgery to remove bone chips in his pitching elbow, the 26 year-old right-hander has thrown very well in the Grapefruit League. With four scoreless innings in his last outing, Stammen has posted a 2.89 ERA in 9.1 innings pitched.
J.D. Martin is another candidate fighting for one of the final spots in the starting rotation. Unfortunately, his performance yesterday against the visiting Detroit Tigers did not compare to the standard that Stammen has set. In his first major league start since March 10, Martin retired the first two batters of the game before surrendering five runs on five hits in the first inning. The good news was that he retired the final 11 hitters he faced in five innings of work; however, the five-run first inning leaves a considerable stain on his case for a starting position.
With Martin's rough day, the fifth and final spot in the Nationals' starting rotation remains up in the air. The first four spots appear spoken for by John Lannan, Jason Marquis, Garrett Mock, and Craig Stammen; however, the last remains as uncertain as ever. Although Martin and Olsen (who will apparently have one final chance to "state his case" for a starting position, according to manager Jim Riggleman) have struggled mightily, Livan Hernandez has done yeoman's work. In eight innings this spring, Hernandez has allowed only two earned runs. Because of his performance, experience, and documented durability, I believe that he will be selected as the final pitcher to complete the Nationals' rotation.