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Why Today's Game Still Matters

As Chico pointed out in an earlier post, the Nationals sent a skeleton crew of players down I-95 to Fort Lauderdale Stadium for today's tilt against the Orioles. While Chico has Adam Dunn working out and Daniel Cabrera pitching in a minor league game up in Viera, I'm here with Corey Patterson batting fifth and the Bynum brothers, Freddie and Seth (OK, they're not really brothers), on the bench.

But there are real reasons to pay attention today, chiefly among them Shairon Martis's latest start in his bid to win a rotation spot. The young Curacaon, who turns 22 next week, has a 2.08 ERA this spring. He'll be facing a tough Orioles lineup loaded with starters (Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Aubrey Huff, Ty Wigginton, Matt Wieters, et al.).

Another pitcher whose performance will be watched closely by Manager Manny Acta (who is also here, although pitching coach Randy St. Claire is not) is lefty Wil Ledezma. Earlier today, Acta indicated Ledezma is very much in the mix for a bullpen job -- essentially, it appears to be Ledezma and Mike Hinckley competing for the second LH middle relief job behind veteran set-up man Joe Beimel.

However, Acta also raised the possibility of the Nationals carrying all three lefties in the pen.

"He's shown [us] that good arm -- a reason he was in the big leagues the last few years," Acta said of Ledezma. "He's thrown the ball good for us. He's in the hunt. We like what we see. If one left-handed arm is going to help us win [more] than a right-hander pitcher. We're not settled here on only taking two. If we need to take three, we'll take three."

*And in case you missed it, here's a link to a transcript of Stan Kasten's chat this morning on our website.

By Dave Sheinin  |  March 24, 2009; 12:44 PM ET
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Next: Martis Through Three: 9 Up, 9 Down*


New posted;

I think the Nats need to take Strassburg regardless of his signing demands. Worst case is Boras takes him to Japan and we get the #2 pick in '10, that's not chicken feed (or a 20 game winner either).

We still get to pick at #10 and can likely do better than Crow given the large number of pitchers available in this draft. Plus we would have shown every player and agent that we are not going to be screwed with by draftees, plus going toe-to-toe with the devil and not backing down would be worth a lot in the eyes of other GMs and owners that might pay dividends in trades/deals down the road. If JimBow's reputation hurt us this would certainly help. The PR hits with fans and commentators would be vicious, but thinking long term it might be worth it.

Most importantly you can't sign Strassburg if you don't pick him so you'll have to take that risk if you want they payoff of having the best pitching prospect of our generation.

Posted by: estuartj | March 24, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

This cracked me up. Especially followed by the moniker...

"Stop it. Chico Harlan is the only qualified food writer here. All food evaluations on NJ must come from him. Any comments from the peanut gallery that mention any food item by name must be in the form of a question. Oops. My peanut gallery mention just violated the rule. Slap me with a wet noodle, Chico. Oops I just did it again..."

Posted by: spamcastin | March 24, 2009 12:41 PM

Posted by: NatsNut | March 24, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I think you only pick Strasburg if you know you can sign him---and sign him quickly.

If he can step into the starting rotation and win 16 games in 2010 like Herb Score did in his Rookie year than he is worth every dime of a mind-breaking contract, but the Herb Score and the evil twin "Bad Score" are never a sure thing.

For any of us old enough to remember Ben "Can't Miss" McDonald of the Baltimore Orioles, we know there is no sure things.

Just go through all the #1 overall picks the past 30 years that never made it. Can Stephen Stasburg be a #1 like ARod or Chipper---many think so but my Crystal Ball is out of service.

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 24, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

From the StanCast:

Burke, Va.: The Nats seem to be collecting spare catchers again this year. Do you expect Flores to be healthy for Opening Day?

Stan Kasten: I do. And, I expect him to be playing in a game in the next day or two. And, I expect him to be our starting catcher. We do have a battle for the backup spot. Any of them in camp could handle the job. We'll take the best one and have the rest standing by in the minors for depth.


Good to hear as the question is valid. The Nats seem to pile up discarded catchers.

Glad to hear Stan put the rumors on Flores to rest.

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 24, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

"Just go through all the #1 overall picks the past 30 years that never made it. Can Stephen Stasburg be a #1 like ARod or Chipper---many think so but my Crystal Ball is out of service."

And - according to Boz - there has yet to be the pitcher version of ARod or Chipper. Considering the state of our team, do we want to be that risky when we know there's a shortstop and a first baseman at hand?

Posted by: Section506 | March 24, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Dave -- I just got back from a meeting and missed the first inning. I see that Bernadina got a triple. Was it a hard hit gapper, or did the fielder misplay it? How fast was Bernadina racing around the bases?

Posted by: erocks33 | March 24, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Man...the AngelO's radio crew is lame.

Posted by: leetee1955 | March 24, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

If I were Martis this is almost exactly the defensive line-up I'd like to see behind me as I fight for a roster/rotation slot.

Who cares if the team gets blanked, they don't count, but my stats do. The last thing I'd want is a bunch of no glove hackers behind me, if only Zimmerman and Johnson had made the trip...

Posted by: estuartj | March 24, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

The Flores question was mine. I also asked him how much they had to bribe Boz to write the column about not overpaying for Strasburg, but he didn't get around to answering that one.

Posted by: joebleux | March 24, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse's Rob Neyer is channeling Granpa Boz about the dangers of choosing pitchers with the No.1 draft pick.

Posted by: leetee1955 | March 24, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

@erocks33: Bernandina's triple went into the right field corner, well-struck, and he never hesitated in going to third. He was safe without a throw.

Posted by: Dave Sheinin | March 24, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Dave: What about Martis vs Wieters?

If spring training means anything, Martis has all but sealed his spot in the starting 5. He's been the third most impressive starter of the spring. There's a chance he might not make the club due to off-field considerations (option years).

Posted by: hoo93 | March 24, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Keith Law posted about Strasburg over at Here's how it starts out: What you have heard on Stephen Strasburg is true. He is bar none the best college pitching prospect in at least 10 years, and there's nobody close to him -- college or high school, pitcher or position player -- in this draft. The stuff is legit. The San Diego State right-hander hit 99 twice on my gun Friday, sat 97-99 through the third inning against Brigham Young and was still touching 98 in the seventh while never dropping below 94. His fastball has hard riding life to his glove side. His slider was a wipeout pitch, 81-84 mph with tilt and depth and a high degree of toxicity to opposing hitters.

He goes on to say that Strasburg should be brought to the majors right away because he won't really benefit from facing minor league hitters. I don't see how this team can pass on Strasburg. It's risky taking a pitcher #1, but there is no comparable, once-in-a-generation hitter in this draft. The Nats have to gamble that he will pan out.

Posted by: Offense-offensive | March 24, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Hey Boom-Boom, nice to have you back!

Posted by: NatsNut | March 24, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Second that. And congrats on the new addition.

Game day link for those who might be interested:

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 24, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like Bernadina's triple had some mustard on it.

Posted by: BobLHead | March 24, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Get in there Martis - show em how it's done. We need this guy to succeed since Rizzo says they aren't looking for any starters.

Ok - it was baked fish, with a tomato sauce drizzled lightly (by me, off the buffet table), with a little celery in there for some snap, and some greek salad on the side. Sugarless iced tea, with lots of lemon (it's free - on the side). Eating healthy ain't so bad. Simple, organic, almost peasant-like in presentation. Dave, please let Cheeks know that his career plans have lit a fire under me.

Posted by: Brue | March 24, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

>@erocks33: Bernandina's triple went into the right field corner, well-struck, and he never hesitated in going to third. He was safe without a throw.

Did they reward him with food at third? Food is a big motivator. He'll need to wear a napkin if he insists on sliding headfirst.

Posted by: Brue | March 24, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Is there an injury issue with Uehara? Game day was slow to start at the top of the inning and he's being replaced after two outs.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 24, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, y'all.

Posted by: Dave Sheinin | March 24, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

uh oh, this inning is starting well for Martis.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 24, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Nothing wrong with Koji... he just hit is pitch count.

Posted by: sec307 | March 24, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I was hoping someone would have done their Herb Score analysis by now so I will give you my follow-up to my Herb Score story "teaser" above.

Herb Score was that "once in a generation pitcher".

After winning 16 games and Rookie of the Year at 22 years old, he followed up with a 20 win season in his 2nd year. The rest of his year was an injury filled disaster. He didn't even win 20 more games the rest of his career.

Moral of the story, long-term contracts are a gigantic risk and almost always favor the player. I have yet to see a player or agent give a refund after they sign that big contract and turn out to be a bust.

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 24, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Chico is just bitter because of all the cutbacks in the newspaper industry. When they hired him as Nationals beat writer, they told him he'd be writing special editions of the Washington Post Magazine centered on The Cuisine of Dmitri Young and Ray King's Favorite Salmon Rolls Across the National League. Instead, he has to write about ballgames. And whenever he complains about the bait and switch, Emilio Garcia-Ruiz just tells him that if he wants to talk bait, here's the number for Angus Phillips, the Post's fired fishing writer.

Posted by: spamcastin | March 24, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, s307.

All's well that ends well for Martis.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 24, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Semi-serious fan of baseball here -

so the point of having a lot of left-handers is that there are so few lefties that the slightly different approach of the ball makes them that much tougher to hit?

Posted by: charley42 | March 24, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Herb Score has no bearing on Stasburg. Score didn't hurt his arm. He was smashed in the eye by a Gil McDougal line drive. And to be honest, I'd take Score's first two years over what a lot high draft choices have done.

Posted by: nats24 | March 24, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

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