• Check The NatCast If You're Headed To Nationals Park!!!
That's how I started the '09 campaign here at Federal Baseball.com, so since things went so well last season I figured it would be best to keep up the tradition. In some ways, not much has changed since April 6, 2009. DC lefty John Lannan was on the mound, in Florida then, as he will be in Nationals Park tomorrow. There were questions about the Nationals' outfield, with then-Skipper Manny Acta deciding on Lastings Milledge in center field, Adam Dunn in left and Austin Kearns in right, which angered two bench players, Elijah Dukes and Josh Willingham, enough so that Mr. Acta spoke to MLB.com's Jim Hodges for an article entitled, "Kearns favored in right", in which the former Nats' manager discussed the situation created by an overabundance of corner outfielders on the roster, telling Mr. Hodges that having the two outfielders on the bench might not be so bad:
"'You know what? I'd rather have two or three guys that are unhappy on the bench that are talented and I know I can go to them and help me win, than to have three guys who are happy but who aren't talented," said Acta."
With both Austin Kearns and Elijah Dukes gone, Adam Dunn converted to a first baseman, Josh Willingham the Opening Day left fielder this time around, and Nyjer Morgan everybody's favorite center fielder, the problem this year is right field, where Willie Harris and Willy Taveras form an underwhelming platoon. Mike Morse, the other likely RF option, is seemingly more suited for a backup job at first and maybe third. Insert Ian Desmond at short, Adam Kennedy at second, and Pudge Rodriguez behind the plate in place of last year's starters, Cristian Guzman, Ronnie Belliard and Jesus Flores respectively, add a whole new bullpen, (seriously, not one reliever returns), and big changes (sort of) are in the starting rotation, and we're ready to go...Who's Watching The Nationals On Opening Day?
Would anyone in their right mind want to start this season with Daniel Cabrera a part of the Nationals' rotation as he was last April? Scott Olsen almost made it for the second-straight year, but lost out to Garrett Mock (and wasn't happy about it). Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmermann came out of nowhere to claim the fourth and fifth spots last year, (along with the aforementioned Mr. Lannan as the fifth starter), now Martis, who's struggled since starting the '09 season 5-0 begins the twenty-ten campaign at Triple-A Syracuse and Zimmermann starts the year on the sidelines following Tommy John Surgery, and is unlikely to return til August if not next season. The Nationals added veteran right-hander Jason Marquis, who'll start the second game on the 2010 schedule against Philadelphia. Craig Stammen battled his way back from elbow surgery to claim a starting spot he earned the hard way last year, pitching through pain til he was shut down. Fans of the Nationals know, however, that it's all about June this year, when Chien-Ming Wang and Stephen Strasburg are expected to join the starting rotation.
Joel Hanrahan didn't last long as the Nationals' closer. It'll be interesting to see how long Matt Capps, who struggled at times last season and this Spring, can hold on to the closer's role, which might mean holding back '09 1st Rounder Drew Storen, who's ready and willing to take the ball in the ninth right now, though he'll start the season at Double-A Harrisburg. Brian Bruney was signed as a free agent after pitching the last 4 years in NY. Bruney and left-hander Sean Burnett, acquired in the Nyjer Morgan deal with Pittsburgh, are likely to be the late-inning options, setting things up for Capps. The middle innings will be handled by right-handers Jason Bergmann, Tyler Clippard (who's got sick #'s against lefties) and veteran reliever Miguel Batista. The last two names officially announced, Tyler Walker, a right-hander who pitched in Philadelphia last season, and lefty Jesse English, acquired from the waiver wire via San Francisco, have until April 11th, when the Nats' fifth starter Livan Hernandez will be added to the roster, to prove that they belong in the majors, since one of the eight relievers on the Opening Day roster figures to be dropped. Have the Nationals improved the bullpen enough? It will be up to the starters to give them leads to work with...and then we'll see.
It all started on April 4th, 2005, the official Nationals' debut as a team, with Washington losing the first game following the move from Montreal 8-4 to the Phillies on the road in Citizens Bank, where a Kenny Lofton 3-run blast was the difference. In 2006, it was April 3rd, as the Nationals started the season in Shea, dropping a 3-2 decision to New York in a game that should have been tied in the eighth if then-Mets' catcher Paul Lo Duca, (who clearly dropped the ball on a play at the plate involving Alfonso Soriano), hadn't deceived the umpire into believing that he'd held the ball all along. 2007 saw Washington begin the season at home for the first time, against the Florida Marlins, but they lost for the third time, 9-2, dropping to 0-3 on Opening Day, when now-retired starter John Patterson got hit hard for 6 runs on 7 hits in 3.2 IP...and who can forget how 2008 began?
March 31, 2008. Opening Night in Nationals Park. 2-2 ballgame in the ninth after the Atlanta Braves tie it when a pitch from the Tallest Pitcher in MLB History Jon Rauch gets by then-Nationals' catcher Paul Lo Duca and allows a run in from third. Two down in the Nationals' ninth and Ryan Zimmerma-- THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!! THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! Walk-off!! Might be the greatest moment in the franchise's history, that or the walk-off against the Yankees, when Zim took Mariano Rivera deep...
April 6, 2009. By the end of the third inning in Florida, the Washington Nationals trailed the Marlins 6-0 in the 2009 Season Opener. The Nats were never in this game, as left-hander John Lannan was knocked out after just 3.0 IP in which he allowed 6 hits and 6 ER. Adam Dunn hit his first HR as a National off Marlins' right-hander Ricky Nolasco, collecting 4 RBI's in his debut with Washington, and in a sign of things to come, the Nationals committed two errors, with Ronnie Belliard and Ryan Zimmerman making no.'s 1 and 2 of what would be a league-leading 143 E's...
Nationals now 1-4 on Opening Day.
• Who's Ready For OPENING DAY!!!
• Washington Nationals' Opening Day Lineup:
- Nyjer "NMIMH" Morgan - CF
- "TAWH" The Amazing Willie Harris - RF
- THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! - 3B
- Adam "Light Switch" Dunn - 1B
- "The Hammer" Josh Willingham - LF
- "The New AK" Adam Kennedy - 2B
- Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez - C
- Ian "The Future" Desmond - 2B
- John "Cool Hand" Lannan - Eating 40 Eggs!!