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Apropos of nothing...

*In yesterday's madness, the Nationals' management was never asked to address Felipe Lopez's comments from Tuesday ("Bench? Hell, no.") Today, both Manager Manny Acta and GM Jim Bowden fielded questions about the Lopez situation, and the gist was this: The Nationals are going to do what's best for the team. As Bowden put it, Ronnie Belliard and Cristian Guzman came into camp as the starting second baseman and shortstop, respectively, and nothing has occurred in this camp to change that assessment. Bowden also said he has "compassion" for Lopez's situation, and said he is glad Lopez believes so adamantly that he wants to start. Acta sounded as if he were disappointed in Lopez's comments, saying, "Attitude is a choice, and I can only control mine."

There is also no doubt this is a delicate situation. If you bench Lopez, you might lose the player -- emotionally speaking. If you bench Belliard, you might lose the clubhouse. Given that choice, it's easy to see why the Nationals might rather lose the player -- although I suspect this situation will end with a trade.

Incidentally, in last night's game, Lopez entered at shortstop in the sixth inning, immediately made an error, then struck out on an ugly swing. He is in today's lineup at second base. Stay tuned...

*In regards to Chad Cordero's blown save Thursday night, Acta said there are no concerns about him whatsoever. By next week, Cordero and the other relievers will start pitching in back-to-back games.

*Talked to a couple of scouts last night about John Patterson, and both said versions of the same thing: They don't see any way a team gives him a big league job right away. If anything, any interested team would want Patterson to come in and audition (so they could put a radar gun on him, among other things), and would almost certainly expect him to go to Class AAA to start out, in hopes his velocity improves.

*Paul Lo Duca will catch five innings today, his first Grapefruit League action of the spring. As for Johnny Estrada, Acta said he doesn't see any way he will be ready for the season-opener, but Bowden said there is a very small chance -- which is why Estrada wasn't placed on the DL yesterday, along with Shawn Hill, Wily Mo Pena and Ryan Wagner.

*I knew one of you would make a Lionel Ritchie joke about my Vanderbilt team. The over-under was seven comment posts. Congratulations, "pk" -- you did it in four.

*Today's lineup for the Nats in Port St. Lucie:
Guzman, SS
Lo Duca, C
Zimmerman, 3B
Young, 1B
Kearns, RF
Dukes, LF
Lopez, 2B
Langerhans, CF
Chico, P

UPDATE:

*Went back and listened to tape of Acta's daily briefing today and he said something about Matt Chico's status in the rotation that was more definitive than I first thought. Here is that quote:

"We haven't made our final decision yet, but I don't think a good or bad start is going to change our mind," Acta said. "This guy went out the whole season for us last year and competed well under [difficult] circumstances, coming up from Double-A at such an early age. Our decision is almost made."

That sounds as if Chico is in (barring something unforeseen), which means the Nats' rotation is essentially complete: Perez, Redding, Bergmann, Chico and (provided he is ready by April 13) Hill -- not necessarily in that order.

By Dave Sheinin  |  March 21, 2008; 11:27 AM ET
 
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