"We wanted to add to our bench strength and we believe that we've done that with Nate McLouth [this] offseason and [Scott] Hairston at the Trade Deadline last year," Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier in an early January interview. "So we feel comfortable both right-handed and left-handed off the bench that we can come up and have a guy that can play extended periods of time if we need to if there's an injury and a guy that can come off the bench and drive in a couple of runs with the long ball."
The guy who can come off the bench and drive in the long ball is Scott Hairston, of course, the 33-year-old, 10-year MLB veteran acquired last July from the Chicago Cubs in return for prospect Ivan Pineyro.
Hairston has a .194/.280/.394 line with seven doubles and 12 HRs in 245 career plate appearances as a pinch hitter. In 1,061 career PAs versus left-handed pitchers, the one-time D-Back, Padre, A, Met and Cub has a .268/.317/.498 line with 65 doubles and 49 HRs in 452 games. Against right-handers he has a .226/.284/.410 line with 64 doubles and 56 HRs in 639 games and 1,512 PAs. In the press release on the acquisition last summer, the Nationals noted that Hairston tied for second in the majors with three pinch hit home runs in 2012.
Hairston signed a 2-year/$5M deal with the Cubs last February then got dealt six months later. He said last weekend that he was happy to know he had a role and a home for the upcoming season.
"I think it takes a toll psychologically when you're not sure where you're going to be and I had a lot of time to prepare mentally," Hairston said. "It's a good feeling, especially being part of this organization. I think there's optimism here. But, yeah, it is a big help, personally.
"It's hard. I was a free agent a few times and it's not as easy as people think," the veteran outfielder admitted. "So I'm happy that I'm in a situation that I can prepare."
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Hairston said he's a player who pays close attention to the transactions in baseball each winter and he has been impressed with what the Nationals have done to prepare for the 2014 campaign.
The addition of new manager Matt Williams, Hairston said, "was a great move," as was the acqusition of right-hander Doug Fister.
"How can you not be excited?" he asked.
As for Williams, the new Nationals' skipper, Hairston's been in the game long enough that he said he overlapped with the end of Williams' career in Arizona with the two playing together in Spring Training late in Williams' playing days as he remembered it. Hairston, like everyone else you talk to about Williams, said he remembered the intensity the Nats' manager brought to the field.
"He went about his business," Hairston said. "Serious and intense and I think that it's going translate very well to the team. He's not that far removed from being a player."
Hairston also said he likes what the Nationals have done to build up their bench. "Picked up Nate McLouth. He's really good," he said. "Nate's been around for a long time. Left-handed hitter, with power, so I think that's definitely an upgrade. The bench is so important, especially to try to win a World Series. I think the team is coming together really well. Offfense, rotation, relievers, starters, bench guys, so, well-rounded. We have enough talent, I think, to really move far and hopefully win a World Series."
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