Washington Nationals center fielder Tony Gwynn hits a solo home run off Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander during the third inning of a spring training exhibition baseball game in Lakeland, Fla., Tuesday, March 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio
March 17, 2015

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg made a strong case for an opening day start, pitching four shutout innings in a 6-4 win over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.

Strasburg gave up three hits, walked none and struck out five.

Strasburg is competing with four others to start in Washington's opener on April 6 against the New York Mets. Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann also are in the mix.

On most staffs, Strasburg would be a lock. But with a loaded rotation for the NL East champions, he isn't even sure if he's pitching in the opening home stand.

''I'm not thinking about it,'' Strasburg said. ''It would be an honor to start at home this year, but all I need to do right now is execute my pitches. I can always get better and everything is working out really well right now.''

Washington manager Matt Williams said he has no idea who he will choose on opening day and doesn't expect a decision any time soon.

''It will be prestigious for whoever it is,'' Williams said. ''I look at it as whoever has the ability to get out the other team. There will be a lot of thought that goes into it.''

The game was Strasburg's second start of the spring. He was rough in his first start, allowing two runs while walking two in 1 1-3 innings against St. Louis.

It was 10 days since that start and Strasburg said he felt fine. He missed a turn in the rotation because of an ingrown toenail and has been throwing in the minor league camp.

Tony Gwynn Jr. homered off Tigers starter Justin Verlander. He is a non-roster invitee for the Nationals and is batting.417 this spring, vying for a spot in the Washington outfield.

''I am taking it day by day and I'm not doing anything different than I ever did. I just need to stay in shape. I feel great,'' Gwynn said.

Kila Ka'aiuhe also homered for the Nationals.

STARTING TIME

Tigers: Verlander hadn't allowed an earned run this spring, but Washington scored four times on five hits and a walk in four innings.

''That was not pretty good today,'' he said ''The slider was horrible, but it was just a spring training start. I just need to find the consistency. My other stuff was good.''

Manager Brad Ausmus said he also had no concerns.

''Except for his slider, everything was fine,'' Ausmus said. ''He was throwing everything else great.''

TRAINER'S ROOM

Tigers: Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are both taking batting practice. Neither has played in a spring game, but Ausmus said he hopes to get them some at-bats before the team goes north. ... Ian Kinsler homered after sitting out several days with a sore shoulder.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Doug Fister will make his third start of the spring against the Miami Marlins.

Tigers: Shane Greene will start for the Tigers in Bradenton against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He will be making his third start of the spring.

NO HARD FEELINGS

Tigers reliever Joe Nathan pitched a scoreless inning and struck out one, leaving him with a 6.35 ERA this spring. That marks his second straight scoreless outing. He was hit hard, allowing six runs in a game last week against the Philadelphia Phillies and was heavily booed by the home crowd. He was booed again as he walked to the mound, but was cheered after his perfect inning.

FAMILIAR FACE

Former Washington manager Davey Johnson has been around camp the last few days and Williams said he couldn't be happier.

''It's great to have him around,'' Williams said. ''He's a Hall of Fame manager and I have a lot to learn from him.''

ROSTER MOVE

The Nationals released INF-OF Jeff Kobernus, who gets 30 days' termination pay rather than his salary under a non-guaranteed contract, which called for $508,700 in the major leagues and $197,167 in the minors.

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