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Strasburg selected for third straight Opening Day start

VIERA, Fla. -- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg will be the Nationals' Opening Day starter against the Mets on March 31 at Citi Field, manager Matt Williams announced Wednesday night.

Strasburg, 25, is a veteran when it comes to leading the Nationals into the season. This will be his third consecutive Opening Day start. In 2012, against the Cubs, Strasburg pitched seven innings, allowed one run and struck out five in a 2-1 victory. The following season, Strasburg pitched seven shutout innings and struck out three in a 2-0 victory over the Marlins.

Strasburg, who was not available for comment, is having a great spring, allowing a run in nine innings. He is scheduled to pitch against the Tigers on Thursday. According to Williams, Strasburg wants to be a better pitcher this season.

"Coming into spring, his objective is to hold baserunners better," Williams said. "He is working on those things because he wants to be good as he can possibly be. Again, he has great stuff. He certainly has experience on Opening Day.

"Opening Day is special and it's an honor for anybody that is chosen to go Opening Day. Is it more important than any other start he is going to make throughout the year? No, but it's Opening Day. He is ready for it, he is excited for it and so are we."

Strasburg is coming off a season in which he went 8-9 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts. After the season, Strasburg underwent successful arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow.

Williams said he considered Jordan Zimmermann for the Opening Day start. After all, he led the team in victories last year with 19. Zimmermann told Williams that Opening Day is important, but the rest of the games are important, too. Zimmermann will pitch the third game against the Mets, while left-hander Gio Gonzalez will pitch the second game.

Williams is going with Gonzalez and Zimmermann so that the Mets get a different look -- the lefty/righty scenario.

Right-hander Doug Fister most likely will pitch the home opener against the Braves if he is healthy. Fister dealt with elbow inflammation for more than two weeks, but is expected to pitch Saturday against the Marlins. It will be his first Major League game this spring since facing the Marlins on March 2.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

Washington Nationals, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann