Strasburg's mates support Opening Day choice
Nationals players, manager believe in young superstar
VIERA, Fla. -- Talk to Stephen Strasburg's teammates and they will tell you the Nationals right-hander deserves to be the Opening Day starter. Strasburg will be on the mound April 5 to face the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who will pitch the second game two days later, said Strasburg starting the first game is a great way to start the regular season.
"Strasburg is leading the pack. He is the right man for the job right there," Gonzalez said. "I'm just excited to be a part of the rotation. I don't care if I was the No. 5 guy as long as I'm out there pitching. ... I think Stras is definitely the man to set this rotation in the right direction. From there on, we are going to help him and follow him."
Outfielder Jayson Werth admired the fact that Strasburg worked hard after Tommy John surgery to become a No. 1 starter.
"It's a testament to Stephen, really. He has put in the time. He had done all the things that he needs to do," Werth said. "That's not an easy thing to go through. I've never been through it, but I know many guys who have. To get back where he is, that's just pure hard work. To get the nod for Opening Day, that's a bench mark in his career. It's probably the first of many. It's well deserved."
Left-hander John Lannan was Washington's Opening Day starter in 2009 and '10, but he doesn't plan to give Strasburg any advice on how to handle the special occasion.
"I don't give Stras any advice," Lannan said. "He is in a spot where I've never been [where there is a lot of hype]. He'll handle it. He knows how to handle those situations."
With Strasburg and Gonzalez pitching the first two games, manager Davey Johnson has the potential to manage the best 1-2 combination that he has ever had in a rotation. In the 1980s, Johnson managed a Mets team that had Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling in the rotation.
"Certainly, stuff wise, certainly, potential wise," Johnson said about Strasburg and Gonzalez. "Neither has won 20 games, but I played with and managed a lot of good pitchers, and these guys are pretty special. This is a special staff."
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.