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Nats Win, Astronauts Return, Dmitri Speaks

Oay, it's time for an epic rendition of Nats notes; we'll touch on a rocket re-entry, a fielding meltdown at shortstop, a revoked Dmitri Young silence vow, and a few debuts from some bullpen veterans. Maybe, if I remember, I'll even pass along the final score. (I had to buy every asterisk in stock for this one.)

* Final score: Washington 6, Houston 3. Just one more game at HSCS this spring, on Monday.

* Shortstop Cristian Guzman had an absolutely terrible, no-good very bad day in the field, and that's about the kindest critique one can muster. His various attempts to commit defense yielded three errors today, costing the Nats two unearned runs, which is probably 1-1/2 less than woulda occurred if Adam Dunn was playing short. Guzman's first two errors came in the third inning: He dropped a shuffled throw from second base that would have led to a 4-6 putout. Then, he muffed an easy chopper. In the next inning, charging for a fairly routine play, Guzman gloved the ball but rushed unnecessarily, and threw wide of first base, drawing Nick Johnson off the bag.

That's six errors total for Guzman this spring.

"I'm happy with the fact that we were able to mostly pitch around the errors," starter Scott Olsen said. "I've never seen him bobble three balls like that in the three years we've been playing against him, but I was real happy that we were able to limit the damage there and didn't let them blow the game open there real early."

* Olsen had his strongest start of the spring, and though he labored through the first one or two innings, he settled down thereafter. All spring, during some very mediocre patches, Olsen has refused to worry, saying he was only worried about the results and the numbers in the last start or two before the regular season. Well, today he went 5-2/3, allowed four hits and one earned run. He walked one and struck out two. He never developed command of his changeup today -- several were left high in the zone -- but his slider and fastball were sharp.

* Speaking of Olsen, here is his take on what it's like to be a member of a young rotation. (Remember, Olsen has had experience with these deals in Florida.) "Being a part of a young rotation, it's different. Usually most teams try to get that one veteran guy in there, where they think he'll be able to suck up the innings that some of the younger guys might not be able to get through. I mean, I think you're gonna have a lot of ups and downs with young pitchers. I had them. I'm still having them. And I know, like, all the guys down in Florida -- Johnson, Nolasco -- they all had ups and downs. It just kind of comes with the territory of being a young pitcher and making the adjustments. Now it's not to say that young pitchers can't do well, because the rotation we had in 2006, I think the oldest pitcher was probably 25. And that was Dontrelle [Willis]. And everybody else was 24, 23 and younger, and we had a lot of success. So, I don't necessarily think you have to have a veteran presence in the rotation. There just has to be more of a group effort."

* Dmitri Young is back on the 40-man roster. He's also talking.

Q: Do you expect to be on 25-man roster when the team heads north [for Opening Day]?

Oh, most definitely. I set my goals high.

Q: If the team wants you to go to Class AAA Syracuse to start the year, would you be okay with that?

Well, we haven't gotten to that point yet, but I don't feel I need to go down there to get ready. Especially, I'm getting eight, nine at bats over there [on the minor league side]. That's all I need is at bats.

Some of the other conversational highlights... He said he was thankful that Mike Rizzo and Stan Kasten were treating him with the same loyalty that Jim Bowden always showed him. ... He said he has never really tried a pinch-hitting role, but thinks he could do it because "the career that I've had, I can hit -- flat-out hit." ... He called his latest back pain the biggest problem he's had to overcome recently.

* At 3:09 p.m. today, the Discovery space shuttle -- and its seven astronauts -- re-entered the atmosphere, pausing the game with a sonic boom somewhere off in the distance. Julian Tavarez was pitching at the time, and seemed a little miffed at first. Then, the stadium PA announcer explained the commotion. It sounded as if somebody had dropped a big cardboard box of old clothing in your attic. Of course, we were outside. But that's what it sounded like. Anyway, welcome back to earth, astronauts. (They'd been gone almost 13 days.)

* Star of today's game: Alex Cintron. He went 2-for-2 with four RBI, the final three of those coming in the fourth inning, when he hit a double with the bases loaded.

Not exactly the strongest endorsement from Manny Acta after the game, though.

"We haven't made a decision yet on Alex. He's a guy who has been up for a while. He's valuable as a utility infielder. We just continue to evaluate him and see where he fits for us." Asked if he's made a case to be the extra guy on the roster, Acta said, "How many extra guys can we have? It's a numbers game. We just have to wait one more week and see. We have Ronnie [Belliard]; we have Willie [Harris]; we have [Alberto] Gonzalez. So, it's going to be a numbers game."

* Julian Tavarez, 1-1/3 scoreless innings. Joe Beimel, one scoreless inning.

* Daniel Cabrera pitches tomorrow against the Marlins in Jupiter.

By Chico Harlan  |  March 28, 2009; 5:18 PM ET
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Next: Today's Lineup


Harlan, you let Da Meat Loaf off much too easy. Why is it taboo to ask a man making $5 million this year whether he plays for the Nats, for the Chiefs or for JimBow's traveling show of ex-Reds washouts why he didn't come to camp in better shape? He hasn't played in a major league exhibition game since March 1, but sounds as if he believes he's almost entitled to make the Opening Day roster. The Nats should have kept the promise to promote him to the 40-man roster and then have him join the Wasteland of Minimal Production on waivers. This situation isn't going to end well for the Nats.

Posted by: leetee1955 | March 28, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

deep breaths leetee. it will all work out. ;)

good stuff chico. lots and lots of info, both important and not-so, just like i like it.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 28, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Ah, the Florida force feed of too young starters into rotations for too many innings. Nice health for those guys through their careers - Burnett, Penny, Beckett, Sanchez, Johnson, ...

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 28, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Just another reason why they threw Bowden out of Washington. A handshake deal and 10M to a dizzy spell 08 season. Who the hell does this stuff and calls itself a major league team?

Well thankfully Bowden is now a bad memory and so to will this slug that can't get fit nor stay sober. Matter of time.

Posted by: Natnut | March 28, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

It's time for Guzman to start playing like a big leaguer.
.234 BA with 6 errors this spring? What's going on?

Posted by: usmc53 | March 28, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Chico remembers Jim Gray's Pete Rose interview, even if some others here don't.

Posted by: CEvansJr | March 28, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

I love Dmitri, but if we are lucky, some AL DH will go down with an injury and will need a bat only...

If that happens, Rizzo better pull the trigger fast.

Posted by: TimDz | March 28, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

I agree with jca

We should have signed someone so that these kids come come in and out of the minors and limited their pitch count.

Posted by: soundbloke | March 28, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

"Posted by: Natnut | March 28, 2009 6:01 PM"

Nice to meet you. Please don't say anything to embarrass our monikers. ;)

Posted by: NatsNut | March 28, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

p.s. not that I haven't done so many times, so i'll try to do the same.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 28, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

I know I'm swimming upstream in this bunch of Anti-Da Meat River Rats, but I say hooray for Da Meat. I hope he becomes pinch-hitter deluxe and can spell Nick the Stick for 30-40 games at first base, plus obviously DH against the AL. Whether that's worth $5 million, I dunno. But that's on JimBo, not him.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | March 28, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Awesome post, Cheeks. This is the just the kind of stuff I love. You rock.

Posted by: Section138 | March 28, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Hey, all you Shawn Hill lovers out there. Did you check out your man's line in his first appearance for the Padres Friday night:

2 innings, 2 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 BB, 1K

The two hits were back-to-back homers by Nomar and Cust.

Over/Under on visit to Dr. Andrews: Wednesday.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | March 28, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Make that Tuesday on Dr. Andrews. Here's Hill after the game:

"I have normal soreness."

60-day DL, here we come...

Posted by: jdschulz50 | March 28, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

I don't foresee Hill going on the 60-day DL if he sees Dr. Andrews any time soon. I think he will follow John Patterson out of the game in that case. Let's hope he at least gets the chance to earn the MLB money from the Padres if that is the eventual outcome.


Posted by: kevincostello | March 28, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

This was next to Meat's name under the 2010 free agent list on mlb trade rumors. What's it mean? What exactly is he getting with 500 plate appearances, and what does that have to do with free agency?

"Dmitri Young (36) -$6MM option vests with 500 PAs in '09"

Posted by: NatsNut | March 28, 2009 10:58 PM | Report abuse

"What exactly is he getting with 500 plate appearances"

I'd have to guess somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5 million calories.

Or if it means the other type of PAs, he'd get the option of either playing for Nats for $6 million in 2010, or taking his chances in the free agent market.

Posted by: joebleux | March 29, 2009 12:53 AM | Report abuse

Okay --- so I'm a Dmitri apologist and fan. (My sister's a diabetic, so I have some knowledge of what its like. Luckily her husband is her full-time trainer & nutritionist!)...

Dmitri screwed up. Hard for us to say whether he's been drinking, but certainly he didn't keep in shape offseason. Right, he's a pro --- paid to do that. Remember, diabetes is a mental and physical disease --- lots of mood swings and lows.

But its not like he's ever been in tip-top shape in his career. The man has a gift --- HE CAN HIT. To go forward now, he needs to shed some more weight, shape up and get plate appearances. He's done it before.

That $5M we've sunk already is ONLY useful if he plays for us OR if we trade him.

So I think he needs one more chance. Don't worry, the man is not going to reject a trip to Syracuse --- and the chance to be among the highest paid AAA players in history.

He only gets to showcase improvements --- and get that chance to be a DH in the AL --- if he plays in the majors.

So his case is special. Unlike WMP he is not a throw-away. The guy sees pitches and, if he's below 300 lb, he will hit. No question.

Posted by: nattydread1 | March 29, 2009 2:40 AM | Report abuse

Dmitri can hit and because of his defense (lack of) is probably best suited for the American League as a DH.

Let's face it, nobody is going to pick up that $5 mill salary, but on July 31st a playoff contender will probably be willing to pick up a 2 month pro-rated share if Dmitri can show once again that he can hit!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 29, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

"Dmitri Young (36) -$6MM option vests with 500 PAs in '09"


"My goal right now is to get up there and be used when needed," Dmitri Young said. "I've been in that situation before and found myself getting 500 at-bats at the end of the year. This is something I'm very familiar with."

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 29, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

... good Sunday morning all, and to you especially, Manny Acta.

... a couple days ago, I said I was getting sick of ST, and wanted the season NOW!. I'd have to say - reading between the lines a bit here - that Manny is getting a little antsy too. It's been a long ride leading to nothing but the starting line; something like taking a shower with a raincoat on, or maybe like kissing your sister.

... come on April; bring it on!

Go Nats!!

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 29, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the mega-post, Chico.

You beat me to the punch on Guz's glove work. However, I was going to post that because he had three errors in a single exhibition game, clearly he's not the answer at short. (Not that I think that Dunn is the answer at first. I'm just saying.)

BTW, you might wish to consult with Sheinin regarding proper boom protocol for future reference.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 29, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

p.s. Perhaps J-Tav thought that it was the sound of a 600-pound woman coming after him.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 29, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Catching up:
Chico great post.

JayBee, thank you for heeding Brian's advice several posts ago. I enjoy reading your posts when they are civil and are not personal attacks against others here.

Giant speakers and lurking 600 lb's going to be a fun year.

I'm excited about our young staff. I don't expect things to go perfectly or even smoothly but we are (finally) going in the right direction.

Let's play two

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 29, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I'm with natscan on being ready for the season to start, but this final week of camp does hold some intrigue. Who wins the final four spots in the bullpen; Bard or Nieves as a backup to Flores; does Casto stay with the team?

Posted by: BinM | March 29, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Just took a look at today's Press Pass" & rather than Cabrera, it has Taverez listed as today's SP - Cabrera isn't even posted in the probables. Whattsup with that?

Posted by: BinM | March 29, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

D'oh - Lead item; Cabrera scratched from today's start, Taverez & a cast of thousands pitching instead.

Posted by: BinM | March 29, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

DCab started having neck spasms while taking batting practice, welcome to the NL.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | March 29, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Everyone's saying he's out of shape. The NATS are saying he's lost weight and is in the best shape since getting there!

Anti-Meat-hook guys, the guy can hit. If he has other injuries, so do other players and THEY don't get half the grief that Dmitri gets.

Would YOU want to be fired because YOU'RE injured?

The NATS created this first base and outfield mess, I'm curious to see how they get out of it!

Posted by: CALSGR8 | March 29, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

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