Gio available out of bullpen for opening series

Lefty's first start set for April 11; Roark to start Thursday's home opener

Gio available out of bullpen for opening series

ATLANTA -- After spending the last few days with pitching coach Mike Maddux "discussing, changing, rehashing" how to line up the Nationals' starting rotation to start the season, manager Dusty Baker revealed his rotation for the first week of the season. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg were already announced to start the club's first two games vs. the Braves, while Gio Gonzalez will be available out of the bullpen in Atlanta.

Tanner Roark will start Thursday's home opener against the Marlins at Nationals Park. Joe Ross will make his season debut on Saturday against the Marlins, followed by Scherzer again Sunday before Gonzalez makes his first start of the season on April 11.

Built-in off-days on Tuesday and Friday this week enables Scherzer to pitch Sunday with an extra day of rest while allowing the Nationals to slot Gonzalez between Scherzer and Strasburg. Baker said during Spring Training that he liked the idea of slotting Gonzalez, who averaged 5 2/3 innings per start last season, in between the two pitchers on the staff who pitch deepest into ballgames.

"Part of it is you got innings guys followed by some guys that might throw less innings than others, which saves your bullpen," Baker said. "It is a unit down there, so were just trying to do the best we can to keep the unit intact."

The Nationals also award Roark with a start in the home opener, one year after he was the odd man out of the club's rotation after the team signed Scherzer during the offseason.

"He wants it," Baker said. "This guy, he told me when I talked to him in Spring Training, he wants to start. And I told him, 'Hey man, if that's what you want, that's what you go for.' ... I like that attitude."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.