SPORTS

Washington Nationals spring training begins Monday in Viera

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For baseball fans in the nation's capital, hope once again springs eternal starting Monday.

Stephen Strasburg is expeceted to be one of the leading men in a revamped rotation. (Photo: Associated Press)

After an offseason of trades and signings, the Washington Nationals are beginning spring training in Viera, Fla.

Monday is the first day of practice for pitchers and catchers who are now at the team's spring training facility in Viera. The 2011 season will be the club's first full campaign under manager Davey Johnson, and plenty of new faces will fill the Nationals' rotation and lineup.

Most notable will be Washington's remade starting rotation, highlighted by the Dec. 23 acquisition of starting LHP Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics.

The lefty, who posted a career-best 16 wins a 3.12 earned-run average last season, is set to join a rotation that already includes Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, John Lannan and fellow new acquisition Edwin Jackson, whom the Nationals signed on Feb. 2.

In the case of Strasburg, 2012 will be a bellwether season, considering that it will be the first time he begins a season in the big leagues. Strasburg returned late last season from Tommy John surgery to go 1-1 in five starts, posting 24 strikeouts and allowing a miniscule .197 batting average to opposing hitters.

The Nationals also fortified the back end of their pitching staff by signing former World Series champion closer Brad Lidge to a deal.

Exhibition games at Space Coast Stadium start March 2, when the team plays the Georgetown University baseball team. Their first game against major league opposition happens the next day, when the Nationals visit the Houston Astros.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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