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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."

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 28, 2010; 12:24 PM ET
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I am not that optomistic about Maxwell's future prospects. This was his biggest opportunity, by far, and he failed to seize it. He needs to absolutely destroy the International League, because the assemblage of players in right field for DC will still provide him his second best opportunity as the season starts.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Kevin Mench in RF for the Nats before Maxwell.


Posted by: kevincostello | March 28, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

"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."

That wasn't a slump, that was his current ability. Maxwell had "flashes" of consistency during a few at-bats in September after he had struck out in over a third of his plate appearances in AAA (as a 26-year-old) in a MUCH bigger sample (and looked bad his first time around in the bigs).

Maxwell is indeed "toolsy", except for the one tool that allows a player to actually use his other tools: the ability to get the cylindrical wooden thing to impact on the white leather spherical thing.

Willie Harris is the new RF. To use his full name, that's Willie Freaking Harris. At a power corner OF position. Seriously. Mike Rizzo is so overmatched. Several teams are salivating over Elijah Dukes, and his agent is picking over the possible deals.

I hope Rizzo is gone by the end of 2010.

Posted by: B2O2 | March 28, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Maxwell now has a much younger, rifle armed left-handed, better power hitter in Michael Burgess looking right over his shoulder. Dark horse Eury Perez could suddenly jump onto this year's big stage in Harrisburg. There is also Destin Hood. Fortunately, for him, Davis and Daniel are both close to his age but they are also left handed.

Maxwell is in trouble. Unless he goes down, takes the right attitude this time, and hits .400 with walks and homers he may not be back. He's in Syracuse with the veteran depth. Not Harrisburg with the prospects.

Posted by: periculum | March 28, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the Nats have talked about moving Willingham and his stellar defense to right and starting Bernie or Willie in left?

Hoefully something clicks with Maxwell otherwise he will be another on the long list of players who were great athletes but never made it because they couldn't hit.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | March 28, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Being sent down caused him to slump, being brought to camp and given a chance to compete for a wide open right field slot caused him to slump. A power hitter is someone who its with power in actual major league baseball games.

Posted by: markfromark | March 28, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

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