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Nationals' roster seems unusually well-defined

In two days, the Washington Nationals will hold their first full-squad workout. In 40 days, the Nationals will play their first game. Normally the period between Practice No. 1 and Game No. 1 causes untold roster contortions, but this year's Nationals seem already well-defined. Barring injuries, Manager Jim Riggleman already knows his starting position players. "If we had a game tomorrow," the skipper said, "I know who the eight guys would be." (My guess at a lineup: Morgan, 8; Guzman, 6; Zimmerman, 5; Dunn, 3; Willingham, 7; Dukes, 9; Kennedy, 4; Rodriguez, 2; Pitcher, 1.)

Now how much of that plays to the chalk? Remains to be seen. Meantime, it's worth following the story lines that relate to the other pieces of the 25-man roster. Such as, How do the Nats handle Ian Desmond? Do the Nats sign another veteran for their rotation?

A few morning notes, in that vein.

* The Nationals, according to a source, have indeed been in talks with free agent veteran Livan Hernandez. ( described the talks as "serious.") I'm not yet certain if a Livo signing is imminent, but there's no question Washington is looking to fortify its rotation. Even John Smoltz's name has come up among possibilities, but it looks like Smoltz will wait until later in the season to sign.

Hernandez, of course, has already had two stints with Washington, first as a top-of-the-rotation ace, and briefly last year as a back-of-the-rotation stabilizer. If he's brought back to camp, he'd be given a shot to reestablish himself in the latter role. Hernandez has durability, and even last season, at 34, the righty threw 183-2/3 innings. He finished the year with a 9-12 record and a 5.44 ERA.

* Stephen Strasburg's Grapefruit League debut is set: March 9, Space Coast Stadium, versus Detroit.

* Jesus Flores's shoulder has good days and bad days, all part of the recovery/rehab process. Today, preparing for practice, he wiggled his right arm and admitted it felt "a little sore." But he's scheduled to play catch today, throwing balls 90 feet. He still doesn't know when he'll be able to throw balls back to the pitcher during bullpen sessions. He can manage the 60-foot distance there, but his arm isn't yet ready for the wear and tear of the 150-odd tosses required in a 'pen session.

* Riggleman said today that Ian Desmond will get some outfield playing time this spring, perhaps starting in the first Grapefruit League game. If Desmond makes this team, he'll do so in a utility role, because Washington only wants him in the big leagues if he can get semi-regular at bats. If he can show a knack for multiple positions, he'll help his chances.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 24, 2010; 11:20 AM ET
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Next: Nats sign Livo to minor league deal


If Desmond isn't starting at SS for the big club then, IMHO, he should be playing at AAA every day, not sitting on our bench.

I guess signing Livo is better then Estes... but not by much.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | February 24, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

"Stephen Strasburg's Grapefruit League debut is set: March 9, Space Coast Stadium, versus Detroit."

I wonder if the Nats will set this up as a "Premium Game" and try and charge an extra $5 admission. Or you can only buy tix to this game if you buy a 3 pack of tix (like they've done with the Yankee game @ Space Coast).

You know they're trying to figure out how to do this when Strasburg makes it to the big show.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 24, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

meh. if the "additional veteran pitching" is livo, color me unimpressed and disappointed.

Posted by: sec231 | February 24, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Just because Livo CAN throw 183-2/3 innings of 5.44 ERA doesn't mean he SHOULD. Say no to Livo.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 24, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

The only thing I can say in defense of signing Livo (and I am unimpressed, too), is that he does have a way of starting the year strong. If he can do his normal fast start out of the gates, then perhaps he can be helpful until they bring up Strasburg and start using Wang.

Posted by: kevincostello | February 24, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I have no problem with them giving Livo a shot, if that is what it is. But how many soft-tossers can one club have?

Posted by: dfh21 | February 24, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Generally speaking, the Nats do better than most small market teams that focus on bargain basement signings. (I realize that DC is not small market, but if the owners think we are, then we are.)

In this case, Livo is not really a bargain, no matter how little money he signs for. The Nats would be doing Livo a favor by handing Livo the ball every five days.

Would the Nats lose respectably with Livo? Maybe--and that is not an insignificant consideration. The Nats may need some of that, to keep fans involved. However, the Nats should be ready to move beyond such a signing at this stage of their franchise development.

Posted by: EdDC | February 24, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Livo? Why? His era will be well over 5. And for the same money, I'd rather throw Stammen, Martin, Martis, Mock, Chico and Balestar out there and see of them can give us a little better.

Posted by: comish4lif | February 24, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Ladson reporting the Nats signed Livan Hernandez to a minor league deal and he will be in camp in a day or two.

Good news that it's only a minor league deal. If one of the young guys looks significantly better, I wouldn't be surprised if we just cut Livo. He's in the same group with James, Estes and Batista. He is going to have to pitch his way onto the big-league club.

Posted by: SpashCity | February 24, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

The argument for Livo despite an ERA of 4.50-5.50 is clear. His arm is rubber and you do no harm to your young arm assets while using him. He buys you time for Strassburg, Wang, Zimmermann, and perhaps Olsen. He's not going to block anyone's development - ever. The point at which the performance of Balester, Mock, Martin, Thompson, Meyers, Detwiler, etc... demands a major league roster spot, Livo would be moved aside. Meanwhile, he's a replacement level pitcher with knowledge and leadership ability. Just don't let him bunt on his own....

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 24, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

* Stephen Strasburg's Grapefruit League debut is set: March 9, Space Coast Stadium, versus Detroit.

Hmmmm, shame it's not vs the Sawwwwwwwwwx or Yanks cause the March 9 game is not scheduled to be broadcast on MASN. Bet that changes now.

Posted by: Kev29 | February 24, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

This is a safe "company" decision to lose respectably. I'll bet Livo makes the team.

We went to several games last season where it was over after the first few innings, and people just went home by the thousands. Can't sell many beers that way. With Livo, maybe the Nats can keep fans at the ballpark into the sixth inning or even later.

Posted by: EdDC | February 24, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Nationals Reach Agreement With Livan Hernandez
By Tim Dierkes [February 24 at 11:27am CST]

The Nationals agreed to terms with righty Livan Hernandez on a minor league deal, tweets's Bill Ladson. Hernandez signed with the Nats in August of last year after being released by the Mets; he previously pitched in the organization from 2003-06.

Hernandez, 35, posted a 5.44 ERA, 5.0 K/9, and 3.3 BB/9 in 183.6 innings last year. Fellow non-roster invitee Miguel Batista will also compete for a rotation spot.

Posted by: trezmartin | February 24, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I may be in the minority but I hope he pitches well and makes the team. Start the young guys in the minors w less pressure than we put on them last year.

Livo was one of my favorite players from 05/06. Hope he pitches better than he has the last few years.

Posted by: alm1000 | February 24, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

* Stephen Strasburg's Grapefruit League debut is set: March 9, Space Coast Stadium, versus Detroit.

Must have been some kind of premonition that caused me to buy tickets for that date...

Posted by: JamesWebster | February 24, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Welcome back, Livo.

Kev, I believe that the MLB Network is slated to broadcast some ST games. Maybe they'll pick up the Tigers match.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 24, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

It appears that The Plan 3.0 is to sign servicable (ahem, relatively cheap) major league players while we wait (hope) for youngsters to develop. Some will gripe about that, and they are not necessarily wrong. There are plenty of logical arguments against a Livo signing, but I'm not going to make them. I can't help it. Welcome back Livo!

Posted by: BobLHead | February 24, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

The new WaPo beat writer Adam Kilgore has a good q&a up with the Mr. Irrelevant blog. Here's the link:

Looks like Adam has some great plans in store for NJ and online coverage in general. And his answer to question 10 is awesome, it's nice to see he has a good sense of humor.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | February 24, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse


I married a Red Sox fan, for whom my tales of a smug Orioles fan are a constant source of hilarity. Love of the absurd and all that...

Posted by: soundbloke | February 23, 2010 9:16 PM

This is the funniest post ever. A Red Sox fan saying O's fans are smug? Have you ever actually talked to your spouse? Red Sox fans are the smuggest of the bunch. They're even more annoying and unbearable than Yankee fans (and that's saying something).

Hahahahaha, a Sox fan (probably one that has a brand new pink Sox hat) calling O's fans smug.

As for the arguing that O's fans hate the 'Skins. Sorry to break it to ya but I root for every time from the DC-area, expect for the Expos. I've had season tickets to the 'Skins and DCU, and have also rooted for the Wiz and Caps since boyhood.

hahahhahahaha. Oh snap!

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | February 24, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

They still need another left handed pitcher in the rotation. That still boils down to Thompson and Chico at this point.

In any case the real strategy, for this year, appears to me to be to give Riggleman SP's that can give him a reasonable number of quality starts. Last year the youngsters failed in that regard while Livo succeeded. Hopefully Marquis will provide the same and hopefully better.

Posted by: periculum | February 24, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

In other ex-Nats news, after making a brief comeback last year following open heart surgery, Aaron (#*$&%) Boone has officially retired from baseball. He'll be working as an analyst for ESPN (psst, Aaron, you should try MLB Network - it's waaay more awesome than ESPN ;-)).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 24, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Livo it is:

Posted by: natslifer | February 24, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the heads up on the Kilgore interview, CiL. I like his plans for ramping up web coverage (and put me down as a "yes" for more minor league coverage).

A sense of humor is always a plus. On sports blogs, even better. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 24, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Great stuff from Kilgore. Love the minor league coverage plans. Love the target of 5-7 posts a day! Love that he wants to beat Zuckerman. Love that he doesn't want to be a food writer. No slight to Chico intended, just prefer to have a sports die-hard manning the beat. Square peg, square hole.

Posted by: Avar | February 24, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I take it this is an example of Kilgore's sense of humor, right? I sure laughed when I read it.

"Q: Why come back to the Post now?

At the end of the day, I’m not sure you even need a reason to justify working at the Washington Post. It’s like the story about Walter Payton getting elected to the Hall of Fame. The football writer charged with stating his case stood up, said “Walter Payton,” and sat back down. “The Washington Post” kind of says it all."

Posted by: nunof1 | February 24, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

"I do know, along with Gene Wang, who is going to be a regular at Nats Park, that we plan on doing in-game chats during weekday day games."

Chien-Ming and Gene both? Does the Post think two Wangs are going to make it all right?

Posted by: nunof1 | February 24, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

"Stephen Strasburg's Grapefruit League debut is set: March 9, Space Coast Stadium, versus Detroit."

I wonder if the Nats will set this up as a "Premium Game" and try and charge an extra $5 admission. Or you can only buy tix to this game if you buy a 3 pack of tix (like they've done with the Yankee game @ Space Coast).

You know they're trying to figure out how to do this when Strasburg makes it to the big show.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 24, 2010 11:36 AM

I agree with you. Nats trying to squeeze extra $ out of this is pretty sad.

Why even announce this? Why not debut him in innings 3-4? Why give him a start initially? Is Riggleman making these decisions?

Posted by: dclifer97 | February 24, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

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