The 2009 Washington Nationals: What "They're" Saying...plus Sunday Game Thread.

As of 11:00 pm EST on Saturday March 28, 2009...

The 2009 Washington Nationals' Lineup Takes Shape... 

DC Starting Rotation:

John Lannan - LHP (Opening Day)

Scott Olsen - LHP

Daniel Cabrera - RHP

Shairon Martis - RHP

Jordan Zimmermann - RHP

DC Bullpen:

Jason Bergmann* - RHP

Garrett Mock* - RHP

Steven Shell* - RHP

Saul Rivera* - RHP

Wil Ledezma - LHP 

Kip Wells - RHP

Jesus Colome - RHP

Julian Tavarez* - RHP

Ryan Wagner - RHP

Joe Beimel *- LHP

Mike Hinckley - LHP

Joel Hanrahan* - CL

DC IF:

1B -  Nick Johnson

2B - Anderson Hernandez/Ronnie Belliard

SS - Cristian Guzman 

3B - Ryan Zimmerman

Extra IF: Kory Casto, Alex Cintron, Alberto Gonzalez, Willie Harris, Dmitri Young.

DC OF:

LF - Adam Dunn 

CF Lastings Milledge 

RF - Elijah Dukes/Austin Kearns

Extra OF: Josh Willingham, Willie Harris.

DC Backstops:

C - Jesus Flores

C - Josh Bard

C - Wil Nieves

The Infield Situation...

We know who's starting in the DC infield, (with Ronnie Belliard in until Anderson Hernandez returns and barring a last minute trade of Nick Johnson, which seems less and less likely each day), but what we don't know is what Washington will do with the rest of the infielders still in camp. Nationals' Manager Manny Acta told Washington Post writer Chico Harlan this afternoon, in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Nats Win, Astronauts Return, Dmitri Speaks", when asked whether Alex Cintron had earned a place on the roster:

"We haven't made a decision yet on Alex. He's a guy who has been up for a while. He's valuable as a utility infielder. We just continue to evaluate him and see where he fits for us...How many extra guys can we have? It's a numbers game. We just have to wait one more week and see. We have Ronnie [Belliard]; we have Willie [Harris]; we have [Alberto] Gonzalez. So, it's going to be a numbers game."

You'll notice there's no mention of Kory Casto there. MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote recently, in an article entitled, "Nats have decision to make on Casto", that without any options left, Casto must either be placed on the 25-Man Roster come Opening Day, or he must clear waivers in order to be sent up to Syracuse. 

Manny Acta told Mr. Ladson that the Expos' 3rd Round Pick in '03 might not be a prospect anymore:

"'[Being a utility player] could be his job,' Acta said. 'We have an interesting decision to make. We have seen him in the last two years -- on and off. We have seen him this year in Spring Training. He has played third and first. He is doing well defensively. He still hasn't hit the way we expect him to hit up here.'"

The decision on Casto will come next week.

Further Reading: Washington Times' writer Mark Zuckerman's "Casto still without a role".

The Outfield Situation...

Don't tell Josh Willingham he's ready for a bench role. Washington Post writer Chico Harlan asked the Hammer what he thought about possibly being a bench player, and the quote from Willingham in Mr. Harlan's Nationals Journal post entitled, "The Outfield Squeeze", hints at the 30-year-old outfielders' dissatisfaction with the situation, as he's quoted stating:

"'I'll answer that question if it happens. I won't answer it now. We'll see how I feel. But I know that's definitely not going to be alright with me.'"

And why shouldn't Willingham be mad, he was acquired in a trade by a team that then went out and signed a 40 HR, 100 RBI outfielder who plays the same position he does, and have so far done nothing to remedy the situation by moving one of the players in the overcrowded outfield...

Lastings Milledge is Acta's man in center. Adam Dunn will play almost every day and he's a nightmare at first so they'll play him in left, and it's Elijah Dukes and Austin Kearns in right until someone wins the spot or is possibly traded. 9 days and counting...

Is there any chance that the rumors of Washington Nationals' President Stan Kasten and "Acting" GM Mike Rizzo wanting to keep all of the outfielders on the roster are true?...Manny Acta did tell Florida Today.com writer Mark Decotis, as quoted in a 3/11/09 article entitled, "Outfielders work to catch on", that he thought he could get all of the outfielders on the roster enough time, saying, "'We can rotate them and get enough at bats for all of them once we get that number down to whoever's going to come with us to D.C.'"

At the time of Mr. Decotis' article, however, Roger Bernadina and Wily Mo Pena were still in the discussion. Bernadina was optioned on 3/19, and Wily Mo Pena was placed on waivers Saturday morning. Pena can now be had by any team in baseball for $2M...either that or he clears waivers, goes to Syracuse and the entire outfield of Roger Bernadina, Leonard Davis, Justin Maxwell and WMP can tear up Triple-A and give the Chiefs a special inaugural experience...while also challenging the outfielders on the MLB roster for their spots and filling in when necessary, which it certainly was last season...

Rotation and Bullpen ?'s...

In MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article entitled, "Nationals to carry extra position player", Mr. Ladson announced that the Washington Nationals would carry four starters and seven relievers for the first two weeks of the season, when off days would allow for them to properly rest the top four arms, John Lannan, Daniel Cabrera, Scott Olsen and Shairon Martis. The decision was made today, as Washington Times' writer Mark Zuckerman reported, in a Chatter post entitled, "Martis, Zimmermann make rotation, Pena on waivers", to start Martis in DC and, as Mr. Zuckerman writes, have Zimmermann, "...(open) the season in the minors before his spot comes up on April 19."

(ed. note - "I'd just like to point out the wisdom of the Federal Baseball.com readers, who voted 69% to 30% back on January 22, 2009 in favor of 22-year-old right-hander Jordan Zimmermann making the Nationals' '09 rotation.") 

(Federal Baseball.com's Predictions: "Collin Balester, who entered Spring Training pencilled into the starting rotation, and was sent to Triple-A Syracuse today, will be back as soon as Daniel Cabrera is moved to the bullpen.")

As for the DC Bullpen...as Mr. Ladson reported, the Nationals will start the season with seven relievers...at the Nationals' official site right now, the team's Depth Chart has seven pitchers listed (from the active roster, no invitees)...Joel Hanrahan (CL), Joe Beimel (who has had the words "primary set-up man to Hanrahan" follow or precede his name in every mention by the Nationals since he was signed), Saul Rivera, Jason Bergmann, Steven Shell, Garrett Mock and Julian Tavarez. As I wrote yesterday, I wouldn't be surprised if Mike Hinckley or Wil Ledezma stuck on as the go-to-lefty, with Mock dropping off of the list... Does Ryan Wagner stay this time? Kip Wells? He still here? Has Jesus Colome earned a spot?

?'s For The DC Faithful...

1) Who stays in the DC Bullpen? Mock, Hinckley, Ledezma, Wells, Wagner, Colome?

2) Does Anderson Hernandez being out help you decide which backup infielder to keep? Do you prefer one of Willie Harris, Alex Cintron or Alberto Gonzalez over the other as a backup at second if Hernandez can't return?

3) Where will Kory "Limbo" Casto end up? Oakland? (ed. note - "That's just always been my guess...no reason...") Syracuse? DC?

4) Will Collin Balester be back? 

5) Please tell me I didn't miss anyone? I stared at rosters for hours trying to find anyone I might be forgetting?

6) Reading Material: Read Dave Nichols At The Nationals News Network's "My Opening Day Roster" post and see what he thinks the recent cuts mean for the '09 Roster...Steven at FJB made bold predictions in, "FJB's Official 2009 Big Prediction Post" last Wednesday...(ed. note - "I think the 'F' stands for 'Forget' now!")...Brian Oliver at the Nationals Farm Authority wrote, "A point by point analysis" of Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell's recently published opinions regarding Stephen Strasburg in a post entitled, "To Draft or Not to Draft"...Mike Henderson at Nationals Pride.com, says goodbye to Wily Mo Pena in a quick post entitled, "Another Jim Bowden Love Affair Down The Tubes", I know this list of articles is not a question...

GAME THREAD...

(ed. note - "I'm not going to be home for today's game...I'll be in brand new Citi Field in Flushing, Queens, NY, watching St. John's baseball...wanted a chance to see the new park when it wasn't full of Mets fans...thankfully I can follow along on the trusty iPhone...")

The Nationals leave Space Coast for Jupiter, where they'll take on the Florida Marlins with Daniel Cabrera on the mound against the Fish's righty Chris Volstad. The game starts at 1:05-ish...

Who's Watching The Nationals? Who Read This Far?...

NEW POLL: WHO STANDS BEHIND JESUS...FLORES?

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