Jackson to start Grapefruit opener

Jackson to start Grapefruit opener
February 24, 2012, 7:24 pm
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VIERA, Fla. -- Newly acquired right-hander Edwin Jackson is tentatively slated to start the Nationals' March 3 Grapefruit League opener against the Astros, manager Davey Johnson said today.

Johnson revealed a couple other rotation slots for the first week of exhibition play, saying left-hander John Lannan will start March 5 against the Mets (with Chien-Ming Wang throwing a simulated game that same day) and Jordan Zimmerman will pitch March 7 against the Cardinals.

That leaves two spots in the rotation (March 4 against the Astros and March 6 against the Braves) still to be announced, with Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez expected to fill those slots in some order.

Johnson said he won't use any of his regulars in the March 2 charity game against Georgetown University.

With more than five starters in camp who need to be stretched out, Johnson plans to have guys "piggyback" off each other. For example, left-hander Ross Detwiler could come out of the bullpen to replace Jackson in that first exhibition game but get a full starter's work in.

Don't read too much into the rotation order at this point, though, because Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty plan to tweak things sometime in mid-March before setting their actual five-man rotation for Opening Day.

Jackson, Lannan, Wang and Zimmermann all threw bullpen sessions this morning, and Johnson came away particularly impressed with Jackson, the 28-year-old who signed a one-year, 11 million contract less than three weeks before camp opened.

"Today, Jackson turned the volume up a little bit," Johnson said.

With position players due to join workouts starting tomorrow, pitchers will begin throwing live batting practice on Sunday, getting a couple of opportunities to face hitters before reaching the exhibition season.