When the Washington Nationals released Elijah Dukes in a surprise mid-March move (considering he was all-but penciled in as the starting right fielder), the Nats assured everyone who asked that it was a baseball decision, with DC GM Mike Rizzo telling Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore, as quoted in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "The surprise ending for Elijah Dukes and the Nationals", that the 25-year-old outfielder had failed to make the adjustments necessary to compete in the majors, "This game is a game of adjustments," general manager Mike Rizzo said,":
"Early on, I think the league adjusted to the player. Then it's the player's turn to make an adjustment to the league. I do know that he didn't make the adjustment he needed to to perform at the level he needed to perform at."
Justin Maxwell had a perfect opportunity to claim the right field role, but hit in just 5 of 50 Spring Training at bats, resulting in a late-Spring assigment to Triple-A Syracuse. The Nationals decided to go with a platoon in right field when no one of the existing options, Roger Bernadina, Willie Harris, Willy Taveras or Mike Morse distinguished themselves during Spring Training, with even Cristian Guzman thrown into the mix when there was no clear-cut favorite to start every day in right. Harris, Taveras (DFA's this past weekend) and Morse were a combined 21 for 108 going into last night's game with 4 doubles (all by Harris) and 1 triple (by Taveras) and 3 HR's (again all by Harris) between them so far in 2010.
Roger Bernadina's shown the most promise, especially recently, with some exceptional defensive play, 2 doubles, 2 HR's and 6 RBI's in 42 at bats over which he's put up a .333/.364/.524 line so far in May. Morse, who suffered a calf injury which cost him a few weeks, has yet to show any of the power that he was expected to provide, and he seems to be lined up now as a backup at first more than a RF option. Within the last four games three different players have started in right, with Bernadina twice, Willie Harris once and even Guzman getting a start. If Bernadina's the answer, put him out there every day. 10 years into his MLB career, Harris still looks like more of a fourth outfielder. Guzman's NOT AN OUTFIELDER (though he did look oddly comfortable out there this weekend)...
DC GM Mike Rizzo went out and got a CFer last year when it was the Nats' biggest need. The Nationals needed someone to throw strikes in a middle relief role so the Nats' general manager jettisoned veteran right-hander Brian Bruney to make room for Drew Storen, (when it might cost Washington more $ down the line), and he DFA'd the ineffective Taveras to make room for Mike Morse's bat when Morse finished a rehab stint, all of which has writers like MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr praising Rizzo, as he did in a recent article entitled, "2011 in 2010", writing, "No longer will the Nats front office allow mediocre (or worse) play. If they aren't getting what they need from a particular player or area of the team, they'll make a change." I'm all for giving Roger Bernadina a shot, but put him out there every day, and if he can't get it done, and the Nationals honestly think the future is now, then they need to fill the most obvious hole in their lineup and find some source of power in right field.