Braves 3, Nationals 2(10)
Nationals manager Davey Johnson announced before a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Braves that the 23-year-old Strasburg will start the season opener for Washington April 5 in Chicago.
"It's a tremendous honor," Strasburg said. "But there's still a lot of work to be done, and it's just one game. Hopefully, the games will be mattering a lot more at the end of the year for us."
Left-hander John Lannan is probably wondering how many meaningful starts he'll get for Washington this year, too. He threw four scoreless innings and will likely be the Nationals No. 5 starter to begin the season because Chien-Ming Wang is out with a strained left hamstring.
Wang was injured March 15 while fielding a groundball against his old team, the New York Yankees. The initial prognosis was that he would be out at least two weeks. On Wednesday, Johnson said Wang would likely be out three weeks.
Once Wang returns, Lannan could find himself in a long relief-spot starter role, pitching at Triple-A Syracuse, or possibly even traded.
"Stras knows he's starting opening day, but I don't think anybody else knows exactly what day they're starting, or what my role is going to be," Lannan said. "But I'm not thinking too much about it. I'm just going from start to start, day to day and everything's going to work out."
Actually, Johnson confirmed that left-hander Gio Gonzalez will start the second game for the Nationals on April 7, following an off day in Chicago. Johnson wouldn't disclose the rest of the rotation, but the way it is set up, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann would be No. 3, with right-hander Edwin Jackson in the fourth spot.
As for Strasburg, Johnson said it was an easy decision to make him the opening-day starter, especially after Strasburg looked dominant Tuesday night against New York Mets, giving up one run on two hits while striking out three and walking one over five innings.
Because Strasburg will be limited to 160 innings in this, his first full season off Tommy John surgery, there had been some talk the Nationals might bump him to the back of the rotation, or come up with a way to stretch out his season. Johnson never considered it.
"I've heard all these different theories from the experts, but I have a little experience in that area, too," Johnson said. "Everything in my baseball mind says you pitch him where he belongs to pitch, and if you've got to shut him down, you shut him down. End of story."
The National have tried to work with Strasburg this spring on not feeling as if he has to overthrow or strike out every batter in order to live up to the hype that has surrounded him ever since he was the No. 1 pick of the 2009 draft. By the same token, the Nationals know that Strasburg expects a lot from himself as well.
"I'm pretty comfortable with the expectations people have for me," Strasburg said. "That's never going to change. I have expectations for myself. As long as I go out there and compete to the best of my ability and do everything I can to help the team win the ballgame, whatever happens, happens. That's one thing I've held onto my whole career."
For Atlanta, it was Hanson's third outing -- second official start -- of the spring after missing roughly the first two weeks of camp with a mild concussion sustained in an auto accident in February.
The right-hander went four innings, allowing just one hit while striking out two and walking one. The one run scored against him was unearned.
"I thought he was OK," Braves manager Freddy Gonzalez said of Hanson. "That's what we're looking for."
Hanson, who will likely go six innings in his next start, said he believes he'll be ready for the start of the season, whether that means he'll pitch at home against the New York Mets or Houston Astros.
"Whatever game Freddy wants to put me in, I'll be ready," Hanson said.
As for Wednesday's outing, Hanson was pleased with his slider, the command on his fastball and his changeup. However, he wasn't happy with his curveball, saying he was a little behind with his delivery.
Overall, however, the 25-year-old was pleased with how he is progressing.
"It's good. I'm figuring out what I need to work on, and each time there's one or two things that pop up that I need to work on," Hanson said. "I don't feel overwhelmed, but I don't feel like I don't need to work on anything. I'm getting more comfortable each time out."
NOTES: Johnson said he was worried about Wang being ready for the start of the season after seeing the extent of the bruise on the pitcher's left hamstring. "He is walking good, but there is a lot of blood," Johnson said. "He is too valuable to rush back. I would say three weeks at this point. I was surprised by the bleeding." . Nationals outfielder Michael Morse (strained lat) and first baseman Adam LaRoche (ankle) are still being held out of action. Johnson said the pair would resume baseball activities on March 25. . With two on and two outs in the bottom of the 10th, Nationals reliever Ryan Perry found himself at the plate. Perry fouled off a couple of pitches before eventually taking a called third strike to end the game. "We hit in the cage every once in a while, but I haven't seen a pitcher since high school," Perry said. . Perry was also the losing pitcher, blowing a save chance in the ninth when Atlanta's Jordan Parraz had an RBI single and then allowed two more runs in the top of the 10th with the help of an error by second baseman Danny Espinosa. . With a few exceptions, Gonzalez said the Braves were going to start employing their full regular-season lineup starting Thursday at home against the Mets. . Catcher Brian McCann will likely get some rest during the final 10 spring games so he doesn't wear down, and the team still has to decide between Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons at shortstop. . Although Simmons got the start and went 1 for 4 Wednesday, Gonzalez was happy with Pastornicky's pinch-hit single in the 10th.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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