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Dukes-Bernadina-Kearns: The best Nats defensive outfield in years?

After missing 1-1/2 months, Austin Kearns is back. He said his elbow feels fully healed. "I'm just happy to be back, excited to be back on the field. So I'm looking forward to it," Kearns said today.

This afternoon, before the rain started falling here at Great American Ballpark, Kearns was out on the field in his workout gear shooting the breeze with Jim Bowden, a few teammates and Ken Griffey. Kearns said he didn't plan it like this -- to return in time to play his former team, just a state border away from where he grew up (Lexington) but he's still excited about it. Some family, including his wife and father, will be at the ballpark tonight.

But for the Nationals, what does Kearns' return mean?

If Kearns can hit more like he did last year (.266 / 16 HR / 74 RBI) than he did in the first weeks of this season (.187 / 3 HR / 16 RBI), then he'll boost -- slightly, at least -- the middle of Washington's lineup. In his seven-game rehab stint, split between Class A Hagerstown and Class AAA Columbus, Kearns batted .412 in 17 at bats. "I've felt pretty good. First couple games you're trying just to see some pitches, but the last couple games I've felt like I was swinging alright."

Kearns' return, though, also means that Casto is heading back down to the minors. Despite Casto's unimpressive numbers (.180 in 50 AB), team management was actually impressed by the guy, and called this a difficult decision. Casto, according to several, looked far more comfortable this time around than he did in 2007, when he batted .130 in 54 at bats.

Manny Acta's words:

"It wasn't an easy decision to make, but yeah, a numbers game," he said. "I thought he did well coming off the bench, which is not an easy thing to do for a guy who's used to playing every day. But we let him know that we like what he did. He got a few big hits for us, despite the low batting average. When you come off the bench, you get one shot at it, and he did well. ... [He] cannot settle to be a bench guy. That's what I told him: Your goal should be, still, to be an every day guy. But I really like the improvements he made up here, and I told him that the least he could be on this club is a guy who could play the corners, both in the infield and the outfield, and come off the bench. And he kind of showed he was able to do that."

Kearns' return, more than anything, will help Washington's defense. The configuration out there tonight -- Dukes in left, Bernadina in center, Kearns in right -- is the same on the Nats figure to use at least until the All-Star Break. Acta called it the best lineup, defensively, of his managerial career.

By Chico Harlan  |  July 3, 2008; 5:41 PM ET
 
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Next: The "Wild West"

Comments

well this may be true.

but unfortunately, defense is not our major problem.

Offense is.

can't win if you can't score, even with gold glove defense.

Posted by: MrMadison | July 3, 2008 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"can't win if you can't score, even with gold glove defense."

And, as we learned last year, you can't get a gold glove without strong offense either. Stupid voting system.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | July 3, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

*Drat, got new posted*

Sorry to see Casto get sent down, but he probably is being wasted here as a bench player, How much longer is this team's roster going to be held hostage by the presence of the Wasteland of Microscopic Production? Maybe Manny should get him some games at the Small Park this weekend, he'll get hot and some AL team will give the Nats a ham sandwich in exchange.

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 3, 2008 5:56 PM

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 3, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Sec 506: Agreed. I wish that MLB (or Bill James & his "stat geeks" could devise some sort of system that discounted offensive performance when looking at "Gold Glove" candidates and focused on a Defensive range/Chances/Assists/Errors formula to better quantify players.

Posted by: BIM | July 3, 2008 6:05 PM | Report abuse

leetee1955: Brilliant!!

Posted by: BIM | July 3, 2008 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Chico,

Chuck Wilson just reported on XM's "MLB On Deck" that your namesake, the pitcher, is going to have TJ surgery. Anything?

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 3, 2008 6:18 PM | Report abuse

"in YEARS"?? They didn't move here until 2005.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 3, 2008 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Which makes me wonder, what would "NJ" -- the blog, not the player -- surgery be? And don't say "lobotomy."
Or quote Waits, if you can help it.

********************
Chuck Wilson just reported on XM's "MLB On Deck" that your namesake, the pitcher, is going to have TJ surgery.

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 3, 2008 6:18 PM

Posted by: Section 3 (MC) | July 3, 2008 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Guzman, Milledge, Zimmerman, Johnson, Kearns, Flores, Belliard, Dukes isn't bad either.

leetee, Chico wrote about Chico's TJ surgery in the notebook.

Posted by: Andrew Z. Stebbins | July 3, 2008 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Not to point a finger, but with the run of pitching injuries (Cordero, Perez, Casto, Hill, et al), I'm beginning to get a little concerned over St. Clair's instructions to the staff. Are the "mechanical" tweaks he makes in a pitcher's setup & delivery adding to the accumulation on the DL, or sorting the wheat from the chaff? Not sayin', just asking.

Posted by: BIM | July 3, 2008 6:40 PM | Report abuse

D'oh! Thanx, AZS. I read the Post gamer, but never got back to the notebook. It was the first I had heard of it. It was naver mentioned when I was listening to the local alleged "sports" radio stations earlier today.

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 3, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I am very glad to have Austin Kearns back. Make us proud, man.

Natsnut- Great picture and interview.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | July 3, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Whoever bats for Lannan when he's lifted for a pinch hitter while trailing by two runs will knock in the Nats only run.

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 3, 2008 6:46 PM | Report abuse

@ AZS: Thanks, I thought I'd seen something about a visit to Dr. Andrews somewhere, I just couldn't pull it up for leetee. On your lineup, move Dukes to #3, Zimmerman to #5, & drop everyone else a slot & we're simpatico.

Posted by: BIM | July 3, 2008 6:49 PM | Report abuse

re BIM: Great question especially when applied to Chico. If memory serves me correctly, St. Claire had him go back to his old high school delivery this year in order to increase his velocity. I'm wondering if the Diamondbacks changed that delivery originally due to concerns about injury??? Interesting to ponder that one...he was a horse last year!

Posted by: Sec 317 | July 3, 2008 6:50 PM | Report abuse

leetee, Chico wrote about Chico's TJ surgery in the notebook.

Posted by: Andrew Z. Stebbins | July 3, 2008 6:35 PM

***************************************
Whoa! Chico said "reconstructive left elbow surgery" NOT Tommy John surgery. BIG difference. Too bad if it's true. I have a huge soft spot in my heart for the left coast lefty.

Posted by: Section 138 | July 3, 2008 6:55 PM | Report abuse

From the previous thread -
@NatsNut: Nice piece in "Crowd Noise". And while I'm somewhat flattered by the mention, I don't believe we've ever met. Were you including NJ posters in your shoutout, or just people you'd met at the tailgate/shabingus?

Posted by: BIM | July 3, 2008 5:47 PM
___________________________________________

@+1/2St: I hear you w/Kearns. Old home park, let's "lock & load".

Posted by: BIM | July 3, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

@138

Chuck Wilson specifically said that Chico the Pitcher is having "Tommy John surgery." That's what got my attention. Can the terms "TJS" and "reconstructive surgery" be used interchangeably?

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 3, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

"Chico said "reconstructive left elbow surgery" NOT Tommy John surgery. BIG difference."

Aren't they basically the same thing? I mean, what is Tommy John surgery if not reconstructive elbow surgery? Reconstructive. That means take it apart and rebuild it. Sounds like pretty serious surgery to me.

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | July 3, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

@317: It might trace all the way back to Patterson, Bray, Majewski and others if you wanted to follow the string. Injuries are part of the game, I fully understand that. It just seems that an inordinate number of blowouts are occuring at the ML level with this team (but maybe I'm too Nats-centric).

Posted by: BIM | July 3, 2008 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Can the terms "TJS" and "reconstructive surgery" be used interchangeably?

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 3, 2008 6:59 PM
******************************************

I've been told before that all TJS is reconstructive surgery, but not all reconstructive surgery is TJS.

Posted by: Section 138 | July 3, 2008 7:04 PM | Report abuse

@sec138: A "Tommy John" procedure is the complete replacement of (I believe) the ulnar ligament from either 1)a cadaver or 2)another joint on the patients' body. Reconstructive surgery on an elbow may involve not only ligaments but the bursa sac, nerve re-routing, general clean-up of cartilage etc. I'd prefer the former.

Posted by: BIM | July 3, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Chico the Writer clears up what type of surgery his namesake had in his new post.

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 3, 2008 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Chico, You have lost it. Bernardina can't even throw the ball accurately or to the right base. He's a joke on defense and even worse on offense. You need to go back to covering cricket in Australia or whatever you covered down there.

Posted by: Mike Hunt | July 4, 2008 6:55 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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