WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzalez had been mentally preparing for his Tuesday start until the moment he found out, late on Monday night, that he wouldn't be pitching. Now he has the rest of the week to focus on a more important outing.
Already tabbed as the starter for Game 1 of the National League Division Series -- which will be played on Saturday or Sunday, depending on seeding -- Gonzalez was scratched in favor of Tom Gorzelanny. Washington's clinching of the NL East on Monday night prompted the decision.
"We're division champs, which is the best and most important thing," Gonzalez said. "It just gave me an extra couple of days to rest up and get ready for Game 1."
Gonzalez and pitching coach Steve McCatty will work out a schedule for the next few days.
"It's a learning curve for me," Gonzalez said. "I'm still trying to figure it out. I'm going to go out there and still try to throw some [bullpen sessions]. I'm going to go out there and do long toss, do whatever I have to do to stay in shape, watch some video -- whatever I need to do to be where I need to be."
Following Gonzalez in the NLDS rotation will be Jordan Zimmermann. The starters for Games 3 and 4 will be determined once the opponent is known, manager Davey Johnson said.
"It means a lot [to start Game 1], especially with such a great rotation that we have," Gonzalez said. "[There are] so many guys that could easily take it and deserve it. I'm grateful to be mentioned in that conversation. If they feel like they want to put me out there for the first one, I'm going to give it all I've got."
Gonzalez's regular season ends with him fully entrenched in the NL Cy Young conversation. He is a 21-game winner, sixth in the league in ERA (2.89) and fourth in strikeouts (207).
Winning divisions doesn't get old for Johnson
WASHINGTON -- Davey Johnson wasn't around on Monday night to share his thoughts after the Nationals clinched the National League East. After finding himself on the receiving end of a few exuberant pours of champagne, the skipper kept mostly to his office.
On Tuesday, before Washington trotted out a lineup with only two everyday players for its first post-clinch game, Johnson recalled his experiences after the Nats took the division courtesy of the Braves' loss to the Pirates.
"Well, I've been in a few of those, and I try to stay out of harm's way," Johnson said, "although a couple of guys got me with some champagne. The one I didn't like after I got dried off from the first, pretty much, was Adam LaRoche. He got me good. I got recovered from that, and then a rookie got me, named Christian Garcia. So that's a no-no. He don't realize what that may cost him."
Jokes and playful threats aside, he acknowledged the thrill of winning yet another division title.
This marks the 69-year-old Johnson's sixth division title, but thanks to such sights as Ryan Zimmerman -- the franchise's first Draft pick, back in 2005 -- carousing around the field, it never gets old.
"I saw Zim running around, and I know it was really special for him, being in the organization pretty much long-term here," said Johnson, whose last title came in 1997, with the Orioles. "For the team to get where it's at right now is what he's been cranking for for a long time."
Considering that their offense was silenced in Monday's 2-0 loss to the Phillies, several Nats admitted to scoreboard-watching to keep tabs on the Braves-Pirates game. As fans learned of Pittsburgh's 2-1 win, their cheers grew louder, to the point where there was no way the players could avoid them.
The Nats began gathering on the top step of their dugout, and after Michael Morse, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa were retired in order to end the game, the party began.
"That was a little different," Johnson said. "[Clinching with a loss] caused a little complication at the end, because I'm used to being on the field celebrating so fans can see us. I was kind of like, 'Fellas, come on out. We're supposed to be on the field.' They wanted to get in and drink some champagne and start splashing everybody."
DeRosa makes first start at short in six years
WASHINGTON -- Before Tuesday, it had been six years since Mark DeRosa started a game at shortstop. It was mostly just how he remembered it -- "awesome" -- but with a few exceptions.
"Little older, little heavier around my legs," DeRosa said. "No doubt."
A day after Washington clinched the National League East, manager Davey Johnson opted to rest most of his regulars. So with Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa on the bench, the 37-year-old DeRosa made his first appearance of the season at shortstop.
"It's a position I played my whole life coming up through the Minors," he said. "Not until the arrival of Rafael Furcal did I start bouncing around. I appreciate Davey giving me that. That was kind of 'come full circle' to finish it off nice."
DeRosa made a nice play on a Domonic Brown grounder in the second and then turned a nifty 1-6-3 double play to end the inning. He booted a grounder in the third, which he laughed off, and finished the day with two hits -- including a double that was about five feet from being his first homer of the season. His teammates seemed to want it as badly as he did.
"They were begging for it to go out, too," he said. "I'm there every day, top step, for them, too. So I appreciate it."
Because of a handful of injuries, DeRosa's appeared in only 47 games this season. He entered the night hitting .182 (and brought that average up to .198) and has just six RBIs. But he's past that.
"For me, personally, it's been a frustrating season," he said. "But I don't even worry about it. What this team's accomplished, and what I've been able to be a part of this year, has been pretty special. Personal stuff goes out the door. We've got a chance to do something great and win a World Series."
Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.