I tuned in to Sirius/XM's Inside Pitch Thursday afternoon for what I thought would be an interview with Nats' catcher and future Hall of Famer Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, but the Nats' backstop didn't show for some reason, so the show's hosts Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy took a few minutes to discuss what's changed in the nation's capital, and ask the question, "Are the Nationals for real?":
Jim Duquette: "...the biggest improvement from last season has been the defense, which we know up the middle is I-Rod, Ian Desmond, Nyjer Morgan and the bullpen, along with the addition of [Matt] Capps. But, the statement, 'The Nationals are for real," are you ready to say that. I'm not. I'm not ready to say that, but I mean they are improved, I have to give them credit. They're definitely improved, when I hear for real, that for me gives me the impression, OK they're a playoff, I don't think that they're there yet..."
Kevin Kennedy: "I can't say that. Obviously I'm not up close and personal seeing them like Rob Dibble is, or somebody on our channel covering the team, but I will say this, they added some nice pieces, and I know Pudge Rodriguez isn't going to hit .400 this year, but he's hitting .405 right now, he had two more hits (Wednesday) night, and Zimmerman's hitting like crazy and he's a Gold Glover right there, and Morgan runs it down, and I know Jimmy Riggleman from many years managing against him in the minor leagues, and Triple-A years ago, and his days in Chicago and San Diego, he is a good, defensive-minded manager, that is a big-time priority for Jimmy, and that will keep you in games no matter what your pitching is if you can catch the ball. So that's big, and I thought, and I said this many times, they had a pretty decent offensive club a year ago and they're just that much better, so 'for real' to me means that they're going to make a difference in the division as far as they're going to hurt a few clubs as far as their chances for the postseason, because they can battle. They're battling and scrapping right now 27 games in. That's the way I take that."
Jim Duquette: "And I think, obviously talking about the power...just one more quote I'll use because I don't want to disclose who the scout is, cause he'll be upset at me, I probably won't get another email from him, no more texts and emails, but you know, he says the key for them, in his opinion, has been the starting pitching. You scratch your head and look for the smoke and mirrors, cause they don't currently have a top-of-the-rotation starter, you know, but Livan [Hernandez] has been leading the way. They do have a guy, potentially, in, obviously [Stephen] Strasburg, who, I wouldn't say he's going to be the number one this year, but clearly his stuff, we know his stuff is there, and he says [Ross] Detwiler and Chien-Ming Wang are on their way, I think you're not going to see Wang very good this year, just because of the injury, coming back from it, it may not be til July or August til we see him pitch, and pitch well maybe towards the end of the season, but again, you're right in a sense they will be factors in the division where I don't think they've been factors in the division in previous years...
?'s For The DC Faithful:
• If the Nationals are around .500 after 50 games will you start to think they're for real?
• Is disrupting the playoff hopes of other teams enough for this season? Will a fourth place finish instead of fifth make a difference to you?
• What do you expect from Chien-Ming Wang this season?
• Does a healthy Ross Detwiler take a spot from any of the current starters?
• Is it June yet? At least we'll get to watch Strasburg tonight?