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Morning Reading

First link starts with some news about the Commander in Chief -- as opposed, say, to the Lack-of-Command Chief, notoriously wild Daniel Cabrera -- who is tentatively scheduled to throw out the first pitch at Nats Park this year. I'll try to confirm this myself later today, but Ben Goessling talked with somebody in Ft. Lauderdale yesterday who said that the first pitch appearance is in Obama's plans.

Next, Cabrera. Whatever he did yesterday won't help the DC chapter of his fan club gain too much traction, but Amy Shipley helps sort through the mixed messages of his outing. You can also read Boz's take on Cabrera here.

Bill Ladson of MLB.com writes about Justin Jones, who is trying to rebuild his career after a basketball injury that cost him a spot on Washington's 40-man roster.

From the former- or would-be Nat department:

Tim Redding talks to the NYT about hunting and chasing down a job.

Buster Olney writes how the A-Rod injury heaps even more pressure onto Mark Teixeira's $180-million shoulders.

By Chico Harlan  |  March 7, 2009; 6:12 AM ET
 
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Next: Lineup Versus Mets

Comments

Second Request for Information....

Chico...we need some reporting on Austin Kearns. Hand blister.....not for 10 days....I would bet a beer what really is going on is that Rick Eck. if trying to rework his swing completely and why this was not done over the winter I really want to know. What is $8 million, not enough to work in December and January on what has become one of the most automatic outs in baseball?

Kearns can not hit inside heat. His hands are too low and tight to his body. His feet and dancing at the point of contact (when it does happen on rare days). What we need is some reporting on what is really happening with Kearns each day and what does Rick E. say about the progress. Kearns is costing us $8 Mill.....seems we should be able to expect that this swing work that is so badly needed, should have been done in December not Mid March. Seems we should be able to expect honest answers about the status not BS about a blister.


Posted by: JayBeee | March 7, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

... good morning, morning reading readers. Good stories all, but one missed (from the Times) informs us that the Nats have got BO.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 7, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

... sorry. I missed Tracee's inclusiveness. The Obama story was indeed included in "Morning Reading".

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 7, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

... 'sorry' the second. It was of course Chico, not Tracee, whom I accused earlier, and who got it right the first time anyway.

... okay, okay. Too many attempts at knee-jerk relevance; not enough coffee. I'll be back later today after my wife gets up and tells me who I am.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 7, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

natscanreduxit....you are who we thought you were. BO...thats a good fit for him.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 7, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Chico: Thanks for the morning links, they went well with my 1st cup of coffee. Nice little piece from Ladson on Justin Jones.
New day, another ballgame to look forward to - too bad there's no audio feed. Oh well, Olsen-Clippard-Towers set to throw today.

Posted by: BinM | March 7, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

After reading the Ladson article on Justin Jones, and reviewing what the Nats have in the bullpen, this guy might deserve a real shot.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 7, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Natscan, all the cool kids call him BHO.

And jaybee, what's up with you? You're dmitri's father. Lay off poor little austin!

Posted by: nunof1 | March 7, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

so would hanrahan set up for hill to close? that could work. seems like a lot of times starters like their routine though. smoltz seemed to think it was easier to maintain his health as a starter but he extended his career by closing. i have no idea.

how's bergmann looking so far? could he return to starting until one of the young guys overtakes him? or just make zimmermann #4 right now and balester #5. this would all be so much easier if cabrera could find some consistency.

i'm definitely interested in bergmann and hill possibly working out of the bullpen.

Posted by: longterm | March 7, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

@natsscan

Your BO remark reminds me of the apocryphal story always attributed to late baseball writer Stan Hochman who covered the Phillies in the 30s and 40s. There was a big sign on one of the outfield walls at Shibe Park that read "The Phils Use Lifebuoy." And Hochman is said to have written "...and they still stink."

Posted by: leetee1955 | March 7, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Good morning.

Funny about your wife telling you who you are, natscan.

Speaking of games today, don't forget the Team USA-Canada match on MLB Network (at 2, I believe).

p.s. I'm mildly curious as to what happens after a second request goes unanswered. Does Chico get sent to bed without his Panera?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 7, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

@longterm:
Just my opinion, but I'm not seeing Hill as a "high-stress" bullpen option - maybe a spot-starter, middle relief type.

Bergmann's numbers out of the 'pen look pretty good so far, but it's a very small sample size. The idea of him in the bullpen as a middle-inning or set-up pitcher is starting to grow on me.

Posted by: BinM | March 7, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

@1a1:

No, I think it just gives JayBeee one more person to add to his list of "people who don't pay enough attention to me".

Posted by: BinM | March 7, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Whoops. Canada vs. USA (AKA WBC Battle of the Nats) is at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, *not* MLB Network. In other Nats Degrees of Separation news, Panama vs. Puerto Rico is on the same channel at 5 p.m. ET.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 7, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I ask this; I don't state this. Why do people think that throwing out of the bullpen will put less strain on Hill's arm - particularly as a set up guy? It seems to me that appearing in 65-70 games a year, warming up for each, warming up occasionally and not going in, puts a lot of strain on an arm. Bullpen guys are notorious for tiring late in the season and struggling to put together good back to back seasons because of the impact relieving has on their arms.

I know that at least part of the reason the Braves moved Smoltz was that supposedly it would help. I think the Cubs tried it with Wood. Perhaps the key is that the team has to make the guy the closer. That puts him in a very tightly defined role on most teams and allows them to almost never warm him up and not use him. Still has Hill really earned the right to be ordained the closer given his penchant for injury?

Thoughts?

#4

Posted by: db423 | March 7, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

*channels* not *channel*

...time for more coffee...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 7, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

@#4:

re Hill: see my response to longterm at 9:43am.

Posted by: BinM | March 7, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

@1a1: Canada vs. USA (AKA WBC Battle of the Nats)

I had this sudden mental image of Adam Dunn versus Pete Orr, in a steel-cage match. Yikes!

Posted by: BinM | March 7, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

"Poot little Austin"?.....clearly you don't expect much for $8 Million a year and over $20 Million for 3 years....no wonder this franchise feels not pressure to improve.

Posted by: JayBeee | March 7, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Keep in mind the what the Post keeps telling us......beside the 12 people posting here......The Nats have lost the fan base. You may be happy with Austin Kearns taking $8 million for no production and the rest of fan base may not care what this team does anymore but in the very near future we are going to be looking at crowds of less than 15,000 a night. Attendence was the last area of relative strength...raido is dead, TV is dead, this team MUST WIN IN APRIL and MAY.....how is that looking to you all?

Posted by: JayBeee | March 7, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

How much excitement is Acta’s lineup creating?

Go to Nats site and request 24 tickets for opening day......you can get all 24 of your best buddies sitting in the same row in the lower infield bowl.......how does that sound for a bell weather for the season's attendance.....is anyone surprised given the Acta lineups and lack of offense this team continues to show regardless of who they put on the field.

Posted by: JayBeee | March 7, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

@JayBeee:

God love ya, you're a passionate fan - we all get that; But just because your amplifier "goes all the way to 11" doesn't necessarily mean you have to play at that volume all the time.

The fan base & others who can be turned into fans will come out if the 2009 version of the team can be affordable, entertaining and reasonably competitive. Sure, they'll get blown out occaisionally - almost every team does over the course of a season.

As a last thought, Kearns is only 1/40th of the current roster, albeit with a high salary (in relative terms). Isolating on him, or any other player for that matter as a crisis point in Spring Training is just wasted energy, in my opinion.

Posted by: BinM | March 7, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

@JayBeee:

If you're really concerned about fan interest, don't rage about Acta's ST lineups - rage about the ST radio & TV coverage. Scream at MASN, WFED, and the Nationals FO that fan loyalty can be cultivated through avalability.

If broadcasts/studio pieces/interviews are not "on-the-air" regularly, the "brand" never gets the chance to be seen or heard.

Posted by: BinM | March 7, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

BinM,

You make sense of course but the issue is not just Kearns....it is 3 years now of Kearns like contracts and Kearns like production....the problem with this team is not one Kearns but the many Kearns like problems.....fans who minimize the problems of this roster by saying oh it is just 1/40th of the roster are ignoring the larger problem. Jimbo created the problems and he is gone....I am glad of that for sure. Now I want progress in cleaning up D Young, A Kearns, WmPena, Cory Casto, Hill, Bergmen, Colome, C Patterson, Cabrarra and the many other failed MLB has beens that clog up this team’s progress.

Posted by: JayBeee | March 7, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Laughing at the cage match scenario, BinM.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 7, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

There is a difference between hoping for Hill and counting on Hill. I don't think anyone is counting on him. If the soreness is something that works out, if he can get on a normal starters cycle of building up to opening day, and if he can show his stuff is the same as it was the first half of 2007, then that's a great problem to have. If he cannot pass those milestones, then I don't think the rotation is much worse off than we thought before OP was / was not signed.

Oh, and the Lannan debate? He is a lefty soft tosser (average FB - 87 - 88 mph), but for some reason lefties can get by with soft stuff better than righties. He was 5th in the NL among qualifiers for the ERA title in groundball percentage, behind Lowe, Webb, A. Cook, and U. Jimenez. He had freakishly bad luck on HRs as a % of his fly balls. The trick with him will be keeping hitters off balance, hitting his spots. It might help him a bit if our infield includes only one defensively questionable infielder.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 7, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

@jca:

I don't think there was "debate" regarding Lannan, just a couple of malcontents floating a percieved issue. Lannan doesn't have a single killer pitch, but he pitches "smart"; some of his individual sabremetrics (i.e.,quality starts) may slip this year, but if he gets any offense behind him, he'll come out with a better W-L record & possibly a better ERA than he had in 2008.

Posted by: BinM | March 7, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Good points on Lannan, jca.

I'm not convinced on Hill for closer. The Closer is such a psychological role (otherwise, why not just stick your best match-up out there for the 9th, it makes more sense stats-wise) that I think "overpowering fastball" goes a lot further than "killer sinker" on just three batters.

Closers tend to throw less types of pitches, too. With most sinkerballers, the key is throwing several different pitches, so when the sinker comes along, the batter isn't ready when the bottom falls out. A sinkerballer closing would rely on having to convince the batter you're NOT going to throw the sinker, and Shawn Hill's other stuff isn't that out of the norm.

Also, if the ump has a high strike zone, Hill is a walk machine, remember?

Posted by: Section506 | March 7, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

@jca (redux):

In regards to Hill, I think you're right - Manny was hoping for him to be healthy this year, but didn't count on it. I'm sure he's dissapointed by the continuing health problems, but he certainly has a better group of starting pitchers in camp this year than he's seen since 2006.

Posted by: BinM | March 7, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Hey Leetee1955:

Your BO remark reminds me of the apocryphal story always attributed to late baseball writer Stan Hochman who covered the Phillies in the 30s and 40s. There was a big sign on one of the outfield walls at Shibe Park that read "The Phils Use Lifebuoy." And Hochman is said to have written "...and they still stink."

The quote is right, but the source is wrong. Stan Hochman did not cover the Phils until the mid-1960s, Gene Mauch-era. And he is very much alive. The quote is right, but it's from an earlier era in Philly sports writing, which of course is renown for being the best in the country. Tough, fair, biting and accurate. WaPost, please note.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | March 7, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of sports writing, there are several new posts up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 7, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

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