ATLANTA — When the Nationals return to Washington for their home opener on Thursday it will be Tanner Roark who gets the start.
That decision was up in the air after four rainouts in 10 games at the end of the Nats' Grapefruit League schedule forced Dusty Baker to make an adjustment. Stephen Strasburg was the original plan for Thursday's game against the Marlins, but he is now set to start the second game of the season in Atlanta.
Gio Gonzalez will skip his start in the first turn of the Nationals' rotation and then slide in between Max Scherzer and Strasburg in the second week. Two off-days in the first week of their schedule allowed Baker and his coaching staff to get creative.
Here's how the Nats' rotation plan will look through their first homestand:
4/4 at Braves - Scherzer
4/6 at Braves - Strasburg
4/7 vs. Marlins - Roark
4/9 vs. Marlins - Joe Ross
4/10 vs. Marlins - Scherzer
4/11 vs. Braves - Gonzalez
4/12 vs. Braves - Strasburg
4/13 vs. Braves - Roark
4/14 vs. Braves - Ross
Roark earns the nod for the home opener after a strong spring training that saw him allow only four earned runs in 18 innings of work. Through his first four outings he allowed only one run through 14 innings.
Roark impressed Baker after entering camp needing to prove himself to a new coaching staff.
"I mean, he wants it," Baker said. "This guy, he told me when I talked to him in spring training that he wants to start. I told him 'hey, man, if that's what you want, then go for it.' If you want to tell the world then go ahead. It's your mouth. He told the world he wants to start. There it is. Go for it. I like that attitude."