WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. ¡ª Tommy Milone, a?left-hander seeking to make an impression this spring as a nonroster invitee, has been tabbed to start the Washington Nationals¡¯ Grapefruit League opener against the Houston Astros on Friday.
Milone, 31, signed a minor league deal with Washington after posting an 8.56 ERA in 11 appearances, including five starts, with the New York Mets last season. The Nationals originally drafted Milone out of USC in 2008, and he made his major league debut for them in 2010. He is competing for the final spot in Washington¡¯s starting rotation, though he seemingly is behind A.J. Cole, Erick Fedde and Edwin Jackson in the race.
Manager Dave Martinez said Milone will be on a pitch count, though he didn¡¯t specify the number.?Jaron Long, hitting coach Kevin Long¡¯s son; Wander Suero, who had a 1.79 ERA between Class AA Harrisburg and Class AAA Syracuse last season; and 5-foot-7 left-hander Tim?Collins are?among the others scheduled to pitch.
¡°We¡¯re trying to see all our young guys early,¡± Martinez said. ¡°I wouldn¡¯t read into that stuff early. We want to give our guys a chance to see everybody because there¡¯s so many young guys.¡±
The rest of the Nationals¡¯ starting lineup will feature four projected regulars ¡ª the minimum required for spring training games ¡ª but none of them are projected to start when the club is at full strength. Wilmer Difo and Howie Kendrick, both of whom have a chance to start at second base if Daniel Murphy isn¡¯t cleared by then, are starting. Kendrick will start at second base. Difo will play shortstop.
Matt Adams, the projected backup first baseman, will start and Brian Goodwin will play center field. Top Nationals prospect Victor Robles, who is in his first big league camp, is scheduled to replace Goodwin in center.
¡°Everybody¡¯s going to get a chance to play,¡± Martinez said. ¡°But you will see a lot of them. My biggest concern is not getting anybody injured, just getting them ready for March 29. And slowly, but surely you¡¯re going to start seeing our regular guys getting in more games and getting more at-bats. But we¡¯ve still got a ways to go, so I just want to make sure they¡¯re ready to play.¡±
The Nationals will begin their exhibition slate with their entire spring roster after Ismael Guillon, the final of the Nationals¡¯ 62 players to report to camp, arrived on Thursday after visa troubles delayed his arrival. The 26-year-old Venezuelan left-hander is a nonroster invitee to spring training signed after posting a 4.52 ERA between the Reds¡¯ Class AA and AAA clubs last season.