A Few Pre-Game Nuggets
Here are the things to know about the Nats' lineup for this series finale against San Diego:
* Manager Jim Riggleman is hoping a day on the bench -- coupled with the scheduled off day on Thursday -- can help Josh Willingham break from his recent slump. The outfielder, whose average is down to .284, has gone 7-for-49 (.143) with two home runs and 7 RBI since Aug. 18. More incredible: Four of those hits, both of those homers and six of those RBI came in one game. Since Aug. 26, Willingham is 1-for-22 with 10 strikeouts.
"It's hard to stay as hot as he was," Riggleman said, "but he's just in one of those funks."
* Elijah Dukes is out of the lineup, too. Mostly because Riggleman needed a way -- any way -- to get Jorge Padilla some playing time. One thing about Riggleman: He definitely keeps his bench players on the bench. (Anderson Hernandez in late-July, for instance.) If Riggleman coached basketball, he'd use a six- or seven-man rotation. Padilla has been with the Nats since Aug. 5, and this is just his second start. Utility infielder Mike Morse has been with the Nats since Aug. 17 and has started just once.
* Also, Zimmerman and Dunn have been flip-flopped in the lineup. "Without Willingham in there, it's hard to protect Dunn in the lineup," Riggleman explained. "So we'll protect him in the lineup with Zimmerman and then put the left-handed hitter [Pete Orr] behind Zimmerman and try to protect him as best we can."
A few other notes here...
* At some point today, we'll find out the player-to-be-named-later in the Ronnie Belliard deal, general manager Mike Rizzo said. It's probably somebody who was on the Dodgers' 40-man who had to be placed through waivers -- thus the three-day delay.
As soon as I find out, I'll post.
* Rizzo was given the open invitation today to hype somebody from his minor league system -- the best development of the season down on the farm, if you will. He ended up talking mostly about Danny Espinosa, a shortstop with Class A Potomac and a 2008 third-round pick from Long Beach State.
"We've got our big five or six guys who really have all had good seasons for us," Rizzo said. "Espinosa is probably the guy -- we knew defensively he was capable of doing great things, and quickly. But for him to come as far as he has with the bat, 17 or 18 home runs he has, he's showing power, he's showing the propensity to see a lot of pitches per at bat. He still has a lot of work to do. He's striking out too often; we get that. But the way this guy can play defense and the energy and swagger he brings to the game, to get the offensive production we've gotten out of him so far has been really intriguing to me."
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