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And away we go...

The Nationals' pitchers and catchers will be on the practice fields momentarily for the first official workout of the spring. John Patterson just approached a couple of reporters and said, "Are you excited?" Before anyone could answer, he blurted: "Not as excited as me." I could not argue with that. Indeed, no one has been more anxious to get on the field than Patterson, who, as we all know, has missed most of the past two seasons due to arm injury.

Speaking of Patterson, Manager Manny Acta was given the opportunity, in his media briefing this morning, to name him the Opening Day (or, more accurately, Opening Night) starter, and Acta passed. "It's way too early," Acta said. Indeed, Shawn Hill is very much in the running, although he, like Patterson, is coming back from an injury. My hunch is that, assuming both are healthy, Patterson is the No. 1 starter and Hill the No. 2, but both have a long way to go to prove they are ready for the assignment.

"We don't have an ace," Acta said bluntly.

Still no sign of many of the team's most prominent position players -- only Nick Johnson. But position players aren't required to report until Wednesday.

And still no sign of any of the players whose arrivals have been delayed by visa issues -- a list that includes catcher Jesus Flores and relievers Luis Ayala and Jesus Colome -- although Acta indicated there has been progress made in many of those cases.

Weather today: 82 and partly cloudy, possible thunderstorms this afternoon.

Soundtrack: Gillian Welch, "Time [The Revelator]."

More later.

By Dave Sheinin  |  February 17, 2008; 8:56 AM ET
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Next: Johnson Swings, Lopez Smiles, Zimmerman Arrives


Way to keep me warm in DC. I love spring training. How does the Chief look?

Posted by: Alberto Hurtado | February 17, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I'm excited, too. As always, I enjoyed drinking coffee from my official ST Nats mug (okay, it's really just my every day Nats mug) while reading the ST coverage in the print edition. Hope to see the reappearance of the Sunday baseball section at some point, too.

As a GHF type, I particularly liked Acta's quote in Solomon's column today: "There [is] a dark cloud overhead, but we've still got a beautiful game with so many great athletes and wonderful players who do it right."

I'll drink (another cuppa joe) to that!

Posted by: natsfan1a | February 17, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I can't wait to hear about today's workout. Thanks again, Dave.

Kinda from last post, I would say given Manny's comments the lineup looks more like this:
Lo Duca

Just sayin I like WMP or Meat much better than Kearnsy in the 4/5 spots.

Posted by: nattaboy | February 17, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

btw that lineup looks fantastic to me. It's gotta be an improvement over last year, and we've got a lot more talent on the bench too.

Posted by: nattaboy | February 17, 2008 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I think the Opening Day lineup will look more like this:

Lopez 2b s
Lo Duca c r
Zimmerman 3b r
Johnson (or Young...if Johnson is traded) 1b l/s
Kearns rf r
Pena lf r
Milledge cf r
Guzman ss s
Patterson p r

Posted by: Andrew Stebbins | February 17, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

There was a nice picture of the Chief in mid-pitch in Saturday's dead-tree edition. Although it wasn't the best angle for making a judgment, it does appear that he's dropped a few pounds during the offseason as he said he would. His stomach has grown flatter, while the brim of his cap has grown less flat. Apparently he has still not been able to figure out how to iron the bills of those spring training caps into submission,

Posted by: Section 419+1 | February 17, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Maybe switch Lo Duca and Millegde occasionally, and when Estrada starts.

Posted by: Stebbins | February 17, 2008 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Did the Chief lose some weight?

Posted by: Jamie Mottram | February 17, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

. . . have we really been graced with the presence of an actual Mottram brother here in our humble blog?? Gasp!

(I was also going to make a Ryan Church joke here, but then the sadness caused by that trade returned, and I found myself unable to be humorous. Iwillnotgetemotionallyattachedtomediocrebaseballplayerswhowillinevitablybetradedawayfrommyteam.)

Posted by: Anonymous | February 17, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Nook signs minor league contract with Dodgers. no major league camp invite.

Posted by: jon | February 17, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

The first workouts, can't beat that.

I think nattaboy nailed the lineup. However, would like to see WMP earn the 4 spot w/ some monster shots and a 275+ average.

Little surprised he named Belliard over Lopez at this point but happy, he out played FLop and deserves to start out ahead.

Posted by: Avar | February 17, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse




Posted by: addendum | February 17, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: emotionally detached proofreading fairy | February 17, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: NotToMentionAnyGivenPostersNomDeBlog | February 17, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

If López is hitting better than Guzman such that Felipe is leading off and Guzman is hitting 8th, I think it's more likely Belliard is at 2nd, and Guzman sits.

Posted by: It Counts Countdown, 6 Weeks | February 17, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

why would you presume that belliard would start over guzman? are you also presuming belliard is hitting that much better than guzman as well? no reason guzman can't play SS and lopez 2B. lopez is not a very good defensive SS, guzman is at least adequate.

Posted by: 231 | February 17, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

i'd still rather see lopez leadoff. it's a new season. new stadium. i expect to renewed enthusiasm with the fresh start for lopez as with lo duca and milledge and estrada and all the pitchers. i know why they are saying who is "starting" as of now but i'm sure they'd prefer lopez to leadoff. to me this would be the best team:

2b lopez
cf milledge
3b zimmerman
1b johnson
rf kearns
lf pena
c lo duca
ss guzman
sp patterson

i do expect it to change regularly and can't wait to see how Dukes fits in. we have lots of pieces to be active in the trade market. gonna be a fun year all around i think. don't get too attached to anyone not named zimmerman or milledge. sure hope flores can start full time next year. otherwise we gonna have more troubles than just the middle infield.

Posted by: longterm | February 17, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

231, I was responding to Andrew S's OD lineup, which had Lopez leading off and Guzman hitting 8th. I figure, IIF Guzman isn't hiting (thus 8th, despite Manny's current presumption he'll lead off), and IIF Lopez is (thus leading off), and assuming Belliard (currently the starting 2b) will be the steady Belli, then the job Lopez will have won (after being "given every opportunity" to do so) will have been ss, not 2b. Therefore, Guzman sits.
Of course, if Belliard tanks or gets hurt, that would change things.

Posted by: countdown until it counts: 6 weeks | February 17, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

And obviously, the concept of "Nats 2008 starting lineup" is a day-to-day piece of work, anyhow. April's lineup will almost certainly not be August's lineup.
February's lineup won't be April's.

Posted by: 6 weeks | February 17, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

i don't think belliard would hit any higher than 7th or 8th, either. i would be shocked if guzman is on the bench if he's healthy. unless he really tanks.

Posted by: 231 | February 17, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Then again, the whole "they have no leadoff hitter" thing could be the wrench in the works.

Posted by: 6 weeks | February 17, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Avar, and I agree that WMP in the 4 spot would be ideal if he can live up to his potential. Anybody who's seen him take BP should know that. What a monster.

I was trying to figure out a 'best case scenario' lineup with all of the nats at their full potential, but I failed. To much to consider.

I'll concede that such a lineup would probably include Lopez, but right now I agree with Manny that he doesn't make the list. By a mile.

I would pick WMP at 4 though for sure and also Dukes over Kearns. I believe in the kid. Mark my words - he'll be a great Nat.

Posted by: nattaboy | February 17, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

That leaves one wondering what Manny meant by saying Lopez would be given every opportunity to win a job. If all three are healthy, he's going to have to outplay and outhit Guzman or Belliard, the current presumptive starters. If Guzman hits, Manny will lead him off, it seems. So Lopez will have to take Belliard's job, if anyone's. But then Guzman is still leading off.

i don't think belliard would hit any higher than 7th or 8th, either. i would be shocked if guzman is on the bench if he's healthy. unless he really tanks.

Posted by: 231 | February 17, 2008 01:44 PM

Posted by: 6weeks | February 17, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Nobody knows how the new joint will play until they play there a while; that said:
It has to be more balanced than RFK, but not evenly so. It is almost certain to allow more home runs, and IIRC there is less foul territory, therefore fewer F/Os, and therefore more hits from extended at-bats. So I think the big guys will benefit disproportionately, or at least more noticeably. Austin Kearns: Cherry Bomb Pavilion; Cherry Bomb Pavilion, this is Mr. Kearns. WMP: CBP. CBP: WMP.

Posted by: Six weeks | February 17, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

new post

(hmmm, wonder whether there will be Cherry Bombs as well as Dingers available from Gifford's?)

Posted by: natsfan1a | February 17, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Love the tunes, but the way. Gillian Welch is fantastic.

Posted by: Dan Heuchert | February 18, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

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