Justin Maxwell sent to Syracuse
Before the big news this morning, there was some other news. The Nationals optioned outfielder Justin Maxwell to Class AAA Syracuse, thinning the competition for right field and delivering a setback to Maxwell's stalled career.
Both Maxwell, an Olney native, and the Nationals entered spring training with aspirations he would emerge as at least a fourth outfielder. Maxwell is as toolsy as they come, a power hitting who plays graceful defense. During his September call-up, his showed flashes of becoming a more consistent hitter. But he fell into an abominable slump this spring, going 5 for 49 this spring with one home run.
"I'm going to be honest with you," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "I really wanted Maxwell to make the ballclub. I just think he's really a good make-up guy. He's really a great athlete. He's just having some trouble right now with the bat. I know he's going to play for us."
"You're never happy about it," Maxwell said. "But it's encouraging that I know the front office likes the way I play. I know I can do it. I just need to keeping working on it, get more consistent."
Maxwell, 26, is potential major league power hitter. I think he's going to hit 25 home runs some day," Riggleman said. But Maxwell could not find comfort in the batter's box this spring. While working with hitting coach Rick Eckstein, Maxwell felt he had a breakthrough recently. He wants to hold his hands lower, which makes his swing quicker.
Maxwell's demotion clears up the clouded picture in right field, where Elijah Dukes's release has left a vacancy. Roger Bernadina, Mike Morse and Willy Taveras will compete for the two spots open after Willie Harris.
After he was sent down last year, Maxwell admitted the demotion had an adverse effect on his performance. Despite today's disappointment, Maxwell stayed upbeat about beginning the year in Class AAA.
"I know how to do deal with it now," Maxwell said. "I'm not going to let it affect me the way it did last year. If I wasn't confident, I wouldn't be here in the first place. Hitting and playing baseball is about being confident. When you believe in yourself, good things will happen. If you start to struggle or whatever, you have to remain confident in what you do. You can't give up on yourself."
March 28, 2010; 12:24 PM ET
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