VIERA, Fla.-- On Tuesday, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman officially named right-hander Livan Hernandez the starter for the Opening Day game against the Atlanta Braves on March 31 at Nationals Park.
It will be the fourth time Hernandez has pitched an Opening Day game for the Nationals/Expos during his career.
Hernandez is one of four pitchers in Nationals history to get the Opening Day nod. John Patterson (2007), Odalis Perez ('08) and John Lannan ('09-10) are the others.
"Unless something unforeseen happens, Livan has earned it," Riggleman said. "Not only did he have a good year, but he is also a composed-veteran guy. With the whole atmosphere of Opening Day, he is able to slow the game down and not be overwhelmed by it."
Outside of right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who will start the upcoming season on the disabled list, as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, Hernandez was Washington's best starting pitcher in 2010, going 10-12 with a 3.66 ERA in 33 starts. It was his 10th 30-start, 200-inning season. Among active pitchers, only Mark Buehrle has as many such seasons.
Hernandez also owns several organization firsts, including throwing the first pitch in the history of the Washington franchise (April 4, 2005, against the Phillies in Philadelphia) and at home (April 14, 2005, against the D-backs), marking the return of baseball to Washington, D.C. after a 33-year absence. Hernandez was also the team's first All-Star selection.
Zimmermann will have an innings limit
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said that right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will not have any restrictions during Spring Training, but will have an innings limit during the regular season.
Riggleman did not know how many innings Zimmermann would pitch during the season. The skipper needs to talk to pitching coach Steve McCatty and pitching coordinator Spin Williams before announcing the number of innings.
Zimmermann returned to the Nationals in late August, after having ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow in 2009. He pitched in seven games and allowed 17 earned runs in 31 innings. He also averaged 7.8 strikeouts per 9.0 innings.
"We are not looking for Jordan to go out there give us 200 innings or anything like that this year. That is more for the future," Riggleman said. "But we do want him to go out there and be a stabilizer."
Zimmermann will be one of seven pitchers looking to fill spots in the rotation. Riggleman said it's not yet known who will follow Livan Hernandez in the rotation.
Storen more relaxed this year
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals reliever Drew Storen acknowledged that he was flustered during his first Major League Spring Training last season, and felt he had to impress a lot of people by throwing hard at all costs -- even in bullpen sessions.
Now, he is relaxed and realizes what he has to do to be ready for the 2011 campaign.
"I was flustered, because it was all new, and learning how to do things," Storen said. "Luckily, I had some veteran guys that showed me around last year. I know how to prepare myself for the season -- different throwing programs, what I need to concentrate on. I'm able to do a little more work in the bullpen and work on my command a little bit more. Last year, I didn't know what I needed to work on. I was throwing to throw."
Last season, Storen wasn't bad on the mound, as he saved five games and compiled a 3.58 ERA at the Major League level. Manager Jim Riggleman called Storen the future closer of the club, but wouldn't say who would close to start this season.
Riggleman hinted that he could go with a bullpen-by-committee at the season's outset.
"If Storen is the closer by March 31st, we would certainly welcome that," Riggleman said. "But we are not going to force that to happen. If he is pitching in the eighth, or if he gets an out in the seventh and then we need [Sean] Burnett and [Tyler] Clippard to pitch the ninth, that's fine. Winning the game is more important than who gets the save."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.