The Nationals get a chance to show off their revamped starting rotation Thursday when left-hander Gio Gonzalez takes the mound for the home opener against the Cincinnati Reds.
Acquired in an offseason trade with the Oakland Athletics, Gonzalez is one of four pitchers who were not with the team for the start of the 2011 season. Stephen Strasburg was still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Ross Detwiler was at Triple-A Syracuse and Edwin Jackson was pitching for the Chicago White Sox. But it is Gonzalez who draws the honor of starting the home opener at Nationals Park.
"I think any one of these guys deserves the shot to [pitch] the home-game opener," Gonzalez said. "I don't really care how the rotation goes as long as I'm out there. Give me the ball and I'm going to go out there and try to do my best to win a game for the Nationals."
Gonzalez had a fine spring training -- except for a 10-hit, eight-run performance on March 22 against St. Louis. But he struggled in his first start of the regular season at Wrigley Field against the Cubs on Saturday. Gonzalez lasted just 32?3 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and walking three.
Washington traded four of its best prospects for Gonzalez -- catcher Derek Norris and pitchers A.J. Cole, Tom Milone and Brad Peacock. Peacock and Cole are still in the minors. But Milone, considered the weakest piece in the trade, just tossed eight shutout innings April 9. Peacock and Cole were the Nats' Nos. ?3 and 4 prospects, according to Baseball America, and Norris was No. 9. Milone was only No. 13. But it shows the risk Washington general manager Mike Rizzo took trading away so many assets for Gonzalez.
The Nats (4-2) return home after a successful road trip to Chicago and New York. It is the first time since the franchise moved to the District in 2005 that Washington has a winning record after its first six games. The Reds (3-3) will start right-hander Mat Latos.