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Spring training blog: Strasburg named Opening day starter, Nats beat Mets

Wednesday - 3/13/2013, 9:28pm  ET

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Bryce Harper watches his home run during the fifth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Miami Marlins on Saturday, March 9, 2013, in Viera, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Craig Heist,

VIERA. Fla. To no one's surprise on Wednesday morning, Nationals manager Davey Johnson named right-hander Stephen Strasburg his Opening Day starter for the second consecutive season.

"He's got great stuff and is very dedicated and works very hard," Johnson said.

"That's a great honor but we have a lot of great starters in our rotation."

Strasburg went 15-6 last year with a 3.16 ERA and was shut down after pitching 159 1/3 innings and while he says getting another Opening Day start is an honor, he is also aware it's just the first one during a long season.

"Obviously, you are getting ready for Opening Day but that's the first start of many," Strasburg said.

"You have to keep focused and keep grinding and do your best to keep your team in the ballgame every time out," Strasburg said.

Strasburg started last year's opener against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, a game won by the Nats 2-1 but Strasburg got a no-decision. This year he expects the experience to be a little different.

"Last year was my first time going to Wrigley and pitching there and I kind of got an idea of what the atmosphere is like," Strasburg said.

"I know it's going to be a little different in our favor being at home and hopefully we get a ton of fans out there, hopefully the weather is great and it should be a good time," Strasburg said.

Strasburg will anchor a rotation that will include 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and new comer Dan Haren. For as good as the starting rotation was last year, he thinks this staff is capable of doing special things.

"It's going to be different this year because no one expected anything out of us last year," Strasburg said.

"Everyone is going to prepare a little bit more for us and we just have to pick each other up and roll with the punches and manage the high and lows. It's going to be a long year but I think if we keep playing together and show up every single day, we'll be okay," Strasburg said.

Nats sweep split squad games

Bryce Harper went 2-for-4, homered and drove in four runs while Jordan Zimmermann rebounded from a shaky outing as the Nationals beat the Mets 8-5 at Space Coast Stadium.

Harper went 2-for-4 with a homer and 4 RBI. He hit a three-run homer in the first off Mets starter Matt Harvey and later had an RBI single in a four-run Nats seventh inning and is now hitting .444 with three homers and eight RBI in the spring.

Manager Davey Johnson has batted Harper third in the lineup quite a bit this spring and that is where he is expected to be on Opening Day. Harper appears to be settling into that nicely.

"You know I like it," Harper said. "Having two guys in front of me that get on base and see a lot of pitches, they're just going to make me better. Denard (Span) is an unbelievable lead-off guy, sees a lot of pitches and Werth is the same way. It's just going to make the team better and its going to be good," Harper said.

Jordan Zimmermann allowed four hits and one unearned run over 4 2/3 innings while walking two and striking out six. He was coming off a rough outing against the Cardinals last time out allowing eight runs on nine hits in three innings.

Manager Davey Johnson said Zimmermann was a victim of dead arm but Zimmermann put that behind him in a hurry.

"The fastball was a lot better today," Zimmermann said. "I could throw it where I wanted to and I got a few guys 0-2 and tried to put guys away and not waste any pitches and they got a few hits but other than that, everything was working today," he said.

"The other time I was a little sore but today I felt really good. It felt good to stretch it out and throw 80 pitches or whatever it was, but stretch it out. I would have liked to have gotten that last hitter and a couple of close calls but I'll take 4 2/3, I guess," Zimmermann said.

Over in Kissimmee, Fla., the Nationals beat the Astros 9-7 as Anthony Rendon remained hot going 4-for-5 with a two-run homer in the eighth, his fourth of the spring. Rendon is now hitting .375.

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