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No sense of sixth starter for Nationals

Jeff Roberson/AP Chris Young opted out of his minor league deal Tuesday to explore his options elsewhere.

The Nationals' biggest issue coming out of spring training is one that won't generate much sympathy from 29 other big league clubs: Who is the sixth starter if someone in their formidable rotation is injured?

That's not a question to be brushed aside lightly. Because while Washington's starters stayed healthy in 2012 -- even an injury to Chien-Ming Wang helped because it gave Ross Detwiler a chance he quickly grabbed -- that isn't likely to happen again.

Last year John Lannan was the perfect insurance policy even as he stewed at Triple-A Syracuse and demanded a trade early in the season when it was clear he wouldn't make the final roster. But that wasn't tenable for another season, so the Nats non-tendered Lannan and tried to find another decent option they could stash at Syracuse. Unfortunately, much like Lannan, decent options don't want to ride the buses in the minors and prefer jobs on bad teams desperate for pitching.

Check the case of Chris Young, who opted out of his minor league deal with Washington on Tuesday because he thinks someone else will give him a job. Out of spring training, at least, that wasn't going to happen here. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Detwiler and Dan Haren have their spots locked up. Two of them (Strasburg and Zimmermann) have had Tommy John surgery. Haren is a 32-year-old veteran who spent time on the disabled list last season. There is a chance for someone to go down. Young just doesn't want to wait three months to find out who.

If Young doesn't return, the Nats' other options are limited. In a pinch, long reliever Zach Duke will take over. Journeyman Ross Ohlendorf and Yunesky Maya both have big league experience, too, and will pitch in Triple-A.

- Brian McNally