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Your 2008 Washington Nationals. For Now. With Maybe A Few Changes... And "What They're Saying!"

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The 2008 Washington Nationals' 25-Man Roster...(* = Projected Starters, # = "Opening Night" Odalis Perez)

"Catchers-

Jesus Flores

Paul Lo Duca*

IF -

Ronnie Belliard 2B*

Aaron Boone

Cristian "The" Guzman SS*

Nick, Nick, Johnson, Johnson 1B*

Felipe Lopez

Dmitri "DY" Young

Ryan Zimmerm...THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! 3B*

OF -

Elijah Dukes LF*

Willie Harris

Austin Kearns RF*

Rob Mackowiak

Lastings Milledge CF*

 

Washington's Starting Rotation -

"Rutgers' Own" Jason Bergmann

"Slowhand" Matt Chico

"Opening Night" Odalis Perez #

Tim Redding (Nickname pending...Possibly "Don Sutton's Favorite Pitcher" Tim Redding)

 

THE DC Bullpen-

Luis "Set-Up" Ayala

Jesus "Everyday" Colome

The Flat-Brimmed Closer Chad Cordero

Joel "Tommy" Hanrahan

"Half-A" Ray King

The Tallest Pitcher in MLB History Jon Rauch

Saul "Sa-ool" Rivera

 

Injured Nationals (and who they're expected to replace on the roster...) -

Johnny Estrada (Flores)

Shawn Hill (5th Starter)

Wily Mo Pena (Dukes in left)

 What They're Saying

Nick Johnson is going to start at first for the Nationals. According to Washington Post baseball writer Barry Svrluga's article today entitled, "First Base Job Seems To Be Johnson's", in which he writes, "...Johnson's comeback from a broken leg suffered in September 2006 now seems complete..." and Mr. Svrluga talks to both Nationals' GM Jim Bowden and Manager Manny Acta about Johnson's recovery, with Mr. Bowden saying that he is:

"'Pleasantly surprised,' is how General Manager Jim Bowden put it Wednesday.' 'I think he'll be 100 percent when he walks on that field Opening Day, and I would not have predicted that when we walked into spring training.'"

...and Nationals' Manager Manny Acta told Mr. Svrluga:

"I think he's (Johnson's) ready to go. He's done well this spring against every type of competition they've thrown out there -- lefties, righties, minor leaguers, established big leaguers."

ESPN the Magazine's current "MLB Preview 2008" issue arrived in the mail today, and the writers at ESPN agree with their Sports Illustrated rivals in predicting that the Nationals will finish fourth in the NL East.

ESPN Baseball Writer/TV personality Tim Kurkjian provides his take on the Nationals in their team capsules, and the most interesting quote is from an unnamed, "Ex-Mets teammate", who questions the decision to let Lastings Milledge start in center, as Mr. Kurkjian writes:

"One ex-Mets teammate says that's a mistake because 'he doesn't get good breaks on the ball.' But of the Nats outfielders (Kearns, Wily Mo Pena, Elijah Dukes), Milledge is the best fit in center."

MLB.com's Bill Ladson writes, in an article entitled, "Nationals finalize 25-Man roster", that though Jesus Flores is going to start the season in DC, it's only because Johnny Estrada is still on the DL with a "sore elbow", and Mr. Ladson writes that Estrada:

"...is expected to be activated in two weeks. Jesus Flores will be the backup catcher for the time being and then be sent to Double-A Harrisburg when Estrada is activated.

Even with Johnson's return to form, Milledge's success in center and the injury to Estrada that's keeping Flores a National, the biggest story of the Grapefruit League Nationals still has to be Joel Hanrahan, who capped off his perfect Spring with another scoreless frame in relief of starter John Lannan (6.0 IP, 3 hits, 1 ER, 1 walk, 5 K's, 2.18 Spring ERA) today in a 2-1 win over Baltimore, which allowed Lannan to earn his second win (2-0) and end the Spring with a spotless 0.00 ERA in 13.0 IP over which he allowed just 2 hits, while walking 2 and striking out 15. Back in MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Nationals finalize 25-Man roster", Mr. Ladson writes that:

"Hanrahan, who is out of options, was arguably the biggest surprise in camp. He appeared to be a long shot to make the team, but Acta decided to put him in the bullpen, and he flourished in the role."

Hanrahan, Ayala, Rivera, King, Colome, Hanrahan, Rauch and Cordero...5-6 quality innings per starter and I'll give the Nationals a chance against anyone with this bullpen. Washington GM Jim Bowden tells Sports Illustrated's Ben Reiter in Mr. Reiter's profile of the Nationals in SI's 2008 Baseball Preview, "...that the goal is clear," as Mr. Bowden sees it, "'To win more than we lose,'" and Mr. Reiter concludes:

"Bowden has proved himself to be a man who gets what he wants, but that goal is still a year away."

Where will a .500 record put the Nationals in the NL East?

How many years away do you think the Nationals are from competing?

Which players from this 25-Man roster will still be in DC when they are competitive?

It all starts Sunday. I'll be there. Who else is going to Opening Night?