While manager Jim Riggleman is saying all the right things (needs to face hitters with something "on the line", needs to pitch every fifth day, needs to pitch with adrenaline), the decision to have Stephen Strasburg start the season in the minors is based on one primary factor:  it will delay his arbitration eligiblity by a year and delay the date he can become a free agent.

This is not a new concept.  It happens all the time.  It's just particularly onerous in this instance because:

  1. Strasburg is already the best pitcher the Nationals have.
  2. Guys like Miguel Batista and Livan Hernandez are competing for rotation spots.
  3. Scott Olsen has yet to prove that he's healthy.
In the long run, it doens't matter baseball-wise if Strasburg makes his MLB debut in April or June.  The Nats aren't going to contend for anything (including .500) this season anyway.  With a tough April-May schedule, and down two (or three) starters to begin the season, the team's record could get ugly quick, with a  long road to go to dig out from the results.

It matters more what the rotation looks like at the end of the season rather than the beginning.

At that point, we could see a rotation of Marquis, Lannan, Wang, Strasburg and "next best".  Substitute Jordan Zimmermann for "next best" at the start of 2011, and you might have something there.

It's just tough to look at the start of 2011 before the 2010 season even starts.