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Up For Grabs

Here's the big news of the morning. The Nationals will not be signing Barry Bonds. "It's not a match for us," Manny Acta said this morning, after choking back a little laughter. "You know, I don't think at this stage of his career Barry is gonna pick a team that is rebuilding anyway."

Now, onward with today's game...

If you're interested in the composition of the 2009 pitching rotation, this day is of particular interest. The Nationals, who will likely select either Collin Balester or Jordan Zimmermann as their No. 5 starter, have decided to stage a side-by-side comparison. So far this spring, the Nats have had Balester and Zimmermann pitch on the same days. Balester started last time, went two innings, and left the mound in place of Zimmermann, who also went two. (Neither allowed a run.)

Today, they're flip-flopping. Zimmermann will start and go three (provided that the "Mets allow him," Manny Acta said). Then, Balester will follow. He's also scheduled to go three.

The notion that Washington has only one rotation spot up for grabs is dependent on a healthy spring from the other starters -- especially Shawn Hill. But for now, that is what it's looking like.

Acta was asked today if it was Balester's spot to lose, given the experience the righty gained last year, when he spent a half-season in the Washington rotation. (Zimmermann, meantime, has never pitched above Class AA, but is the organization's top prospect.)

"It's open," Acta said. "What was the big league experience? A 5.00-something ERA? That doesn't give you any head start on anybody. It's wide open."

Today's lineup

Guzman - 6
Milledge - 8
Zimmerman - 5
Johnson - 3
Dukes - 9
Willingham - 7
Belliard - 4
Montz - 2

Scheduled pitchers
Zimmermann
Balester
Bergmann
Colome
Mock

By Chico Harlan  |  March 4, 2009; 9:28 AM ET
 
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Next: Rizzo Gets New Duties; Kasten: No Urgency for Search

Comments

Re. Barry, hahahahahahaha. ha.

Thanks for the lineups. Go NATS!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 4, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

... okay I just read Chico’s Scott Olsen story and have these reflections. Scott, like a few others before him, are social work projects injected into the Nats’ clubhouse, and that in itself is not a bad thing. But in the case of the Nats’ as they are at present, it poses some unfortunate problems.

... as Chico reports, Scott has come into the clubhouse with his own baggage, which isn’t the worst in baseball nor is it the best. But he’s saddled with it, and shows no sign that he wishes to shed it. Again, that’s not a problem in its own right.

... where the problem arises – it seems to me – is in the fact that until now, and perhaps a disappointing legacy of the JB era, the Nationals do not have nor have they developed a “Washington Nationals” ethos. There is not picture in the dictionary under their name which would provide a descriptive image of what it means to be this team, and a player on this team.

... so Scott Olsen has the freedom to be what he is and has been, not because he is incorrigible – he may very well not be – but because he has no ‘Washington Nationals’ image to live up to.

... not yet at least. That is what I see as the main job of Stan Kasten and whomever is selected to work with him as the next general manager.


~~~

... I like the look of today's game because of the pitching line-up (interested to see Zim and Collin again and with a longer pitch count this time) and the major league nature of the order (the only non-starter on opening day - in my estimation - is Montz).

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 4, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

To be fair, Natscan, this is the first year with enough continuity in personnel to even be thinking about a Nationals ethos.

And we're talking about a team that just canned its GM as one with continuity.

Posted by: Section506 | March 4, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

What were the reports on how Hill's arm felt in the days after his first start?

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | March 4, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Unabashed giddiness: I love spring training. It's fun to be excited about these two guys battling it out for the last starting spot.

Unabashed revulsion: If we want to talk about baggage - Odalis carries more than a English princess wintering on the Riviera. The stories one hears about his personal habits make your skin crawl. He makes Olsen look like a choir boy. To me Perez is a stop gap for a desperate team with no MLB ready starters in the system. The Nats thank goodness have graduated from that status; at least I hope they have.

#4

Posted by: db423 | March 4, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

natscan, i think there are three non OD starters in that lineup (7,8,9).

Guzman - 6 (check)
Milledge - 8 (check)
Zimmerman - 5 (check)
Johnson - 3 (check)
Dukes - 9 (check)
Willingham - 7 (nope, dunn and earlier in the lineup)
Belliard - 4 (nope hernandez)
Montz - 2 (nope flores)

Posted by: sec231 | March 4, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Ladson is reporting Rizzo is taking over the bulk of the GM duties (http://tinyurl.com/datfgf) but stops short of calling him the interim GM

Posted by: Brian_ | March 4, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Just a guess on Katzen/Rizzo:

Stan is taking over because (1) he is the only one who can stand up to the Lerners and get them to commit to making the needed investments in the future of the ballclub. If this means trading for a player who has a decent contract, for example, or signing Zim to a nice package, as another example, then it will be showdown time between two power players, Katzen and a Lerner; (2) Rizzo is learning from a pro, Katzen, about matters that JimBo probably did not involve Rizzo in very much (except in the talent evaluation aspects of the deals).

We are in a relatively quiet time of team-building right now, with most of the heavy lifting already concluded for 2009. This is a good time to have a reasonably paced, peaceful transition.

Posted by: EdDC | March 4, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I'm thinking Rizzo is the odds on favorite to get the GM gig, I think Kasten is going to do a "full" search so that he can give Rizzo the job outright rather than tag him with Interim for the duration of the season and then go through the motions after.

In the off chance they do go with someone outside the organization then by NOT tagging Rizzo as interim GM you make it a lot easier to convince Rizzo to stay, at least for '09, if you tag him interim and then hire LaCava there is too much risk that Rizzo would be sufficiently dissapointed, upset or uncomfortable that he would step down as AGM and you have the whole scouting and drafting plan for June screwed up.

Still, if I was a betting man (and I'm not) I'd double down my bet on Rizzo to be GM with an anouncement of such is the next week to 10 days, depending how long it takes to go through the motions of doing a full interview process.

Posted by: estuartj | March 4, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

"What was the big league experience? A 5.00-something ERA? That doesn't give you any head start on anybody. It's wide open."

Meow.

Posted by: Ted_Striker | March 4, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Always interesting to see how readers can come away from the same piece with different impressions. My own impression was that at least some of Olsen's issues had been exaggerated in the media, and that he had matured quite a bit in the past year.

FWIW, I had similar thoughts regarding Delmon Young after watching the recent MLB Network special. He seemed like a decent enough kid who had made some mistakes and learned from them.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 4, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I had a different initial impression of Young based on media reports. You never know...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 4, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Going back to the Strasburg mechanics topic from the last post, BA's Jim Callis had this to say about the issue in his chat last week:

Alex NY, NY: Recently I found a few blogs on the internet breaking down Stephen Strasburg's pitching mechanics. The jury is pretty much split. One source says that Strasburg's mechanics are deeply flawed and that he is destined to have a short, injury riddled career. Another blog said almost the complete opposite, that Strasburg has displayed mechanics that are as sound as one could ever dream of from a collegiate pitcher. However, both sources cited that Strasburg has sown the dreaded "inverted W" that doomed Mark Prior. I'm wondering if you guys could please set the record straight? What's the verdict? Are scouts concerned about Strasburg's mechanics? Have you heard anything about this?

Jim Callis: I've talked to a lot of scouts about Strasburg, and no one has brought up mechanical concerns. Here's the thing about mechanics--it's great if someone has dream or textbook mechanics, but we still don't know why pitchers get hurt. Prior was supposed to have a picture-perfect delivery, and he couldn't stay healthy. Tim Lincecum has unorthodox mechanics, but they work great for him. I don't profess to be an expert on mechanics, but if a guy repeats his delivery without putting a lot of stress on his elbow or shoulder, who cares if it's perfect.

Posted by: BobLHead | March 4, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Is anyone else out there starting to be optimistic about both the lack of injury news involving our usual suspects (Johnson, Dukes, Hill) AND the relatively positive performances out of our presumptive starting rotation (Olsen, Cabrera, Lannan, Hill) so far this spring?

A healthy NJ and Dunn in the lineup are probably worth a ton of runs, and you have to think that we'll get more out of Olsen and Hill versus what Bergmann, Chico and an injured Hill gave us last year.

Anyone else drinking the Koolaid yet?

Posted by: tboss | March 4, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Just a guess on Katzen/Rizzo:

Stan is taking over because (1) he is the only one who can stand up to the Lerners and get them to commit to making the needed investments in the future of the ballclub. If this means trading for a player who has a decent contract, for example, or signing Zim to a nice package, as another example, then it will be showdown time between two power players, Katzen and a Lerner; (2) Rizzo is learning from a pro, Katzen, about matters that JimBo probably did not involve Rizzo in very much (except in the talent evaluation aspects of the deals).

We are in a relatively quiet time of team-building right now, with most of the heavy lifting already concluded for 2009. This is a good time to have a reasonably paced, peaceful transition.

Posted by: EdDC | March 4, 2009 10:17 AM
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Ed - The man's name is Kasten not Katzen. Is this your perverted humor or just more of your Nats hatred? Your overall message would have been good if not for that. A real shame.

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 4, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

From the Ladson post:

"I don't want to comment on my profile," Rizzo said recently. "I'm part of the Washington Nationals organization. We sink and swing together. I'm happy where I'm at in my career. At this time, we have to be about we instead of me."

There you have it. Nationals 2009: We Sink and Swing Together.

Posted by: BobLHead | March 4, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Also, new post.

Posted by: BobLHead | March 4, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Is anyone else out there starting to be optimistic about both the lack of injury news involving our usual suspects (Johnson, Dukes, Hill) AND the relatively positive performances out of our presumptive starting rotation (Olsen, Cabrera, Lannan, Hill) so far this spring?

A healthy NJ and Dunn in the lineup are probably worth a ton of runs, and you have to think that we'll get more out of Olsen and Hill versus what Bergmann, Chico and an injured Hill gave us last year.

Anyone else drinking the Koolaid yet?

Posted by: tboss | March 4, 2009 10:48 AM

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I drank the Koolaid every year until this year, then they got Adam Dunn and fulfilled their promise to us on getting the LH Power Hitter.

So yes, I am back to drinking the Koolaid and would be thrilled with a 3rd place finish in the NL East and signing Strasburg and another stud at 9A because in 2010 they can start getting serious about contending.

I don't expect a Tampa Bay Rays miracle story from the Nats this year. For that to happen, three of the starters would have to be phenomenal and the bullpen would have to hold up.

Here's drinking the Kool Aid for 3rd place!!!

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 4, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

"If you're interested in the composition of the 2009 pitching rotation"

IF? Have we not shown our insatiable appetite for such mundane matters as the 5th starter?

I trust it was rhetorical. Glad to have all these tidbits. Feeling optimistic about this year, in spite of myself.

Posted by: Avar | March 4, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

If there was ever a case of Too Much Information, this may be it. But thanks for sharing.

---

There you have it. Nationals 2009: We Sink and Swing Together.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 4, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Well, it's better than "We Stink and Swing Together."

Posted by: BobLHead | March 4, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

tboss and dmacman88 - We need a larger punch bowl. I'm drinking too.

Posted by: ilovethenats | March 4, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

So far the lack of our normal injury news has given us a nice start to the spring. The rotation is looking very promising. The one I have the most concerns about is Cabrera. The Saint's got his hands full on that one and it'll take more than just this Spring for him to show any substantial improvement. Still overall I'm very optimistic right now.

Posted by: Bazz | March 4, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I hope that there will be a few more changes before the start of the season. The middle-inning bullpen is already at last year's mid-season form, blowing leads to Europeans (even if those have had the baseball tradition since WWII, as I've been made to understand). Second base has promise, but we will be hoping for a career year from our candidates there in order to have decent production.

Kasten/Rizzo/LaCava have to work hard to eliminate roster clog problems, fill some holes, and start to dismantle the structures Bowden was ridiculed for industry-wide. Making the whole look less like a Cincinnati reunion is a good example, for instance.

As for the Mets, it sounds like Santana won't be ready for Opening Day. Perhaps other teams in the NL East are due for some of the injuries problems the Nats had last year. Not hoping for it, mind you, but I hope the Nats take advantage if it happens (more trades, more wins).

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | March 4, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

dmacman88:

Sorry to have misspelled Kasten's name--I was in a hurry. Phonetically it's about the same. I'm not sure what perversion you feel the misspelling reveals...

I am a huge Nats fan by the way. Like Tom Boswell and other perverts, I have been concerned about a lack of investment in the team, but that doesn't mean I hate.

Posted by: EdDC | March 4, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

didn't they just get all new coaches except for St. Claire and Manny??
******************
To be fair, Natscan, this is the first year with enough continuity in personnel to even be thinking about a Nationals ethos.
And we're talking about a team that just canned its GM as one with continuity.
Posted by: Section506 | March 4, 2009 9:42 AM

Posted by: CEvansJr | March 4, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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