Nationals Outlook

Strike With Opening Day just six days away, Nationals Park is advertised as “nearly ready,” but what about the team that will take the field that night? Well, I wouldn’t hope for the playoffs, but there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic after Spring Training. I’m on record as saying the Nationals will finish over .500, and I stand by that. Here’s some of the questions you need to know the answers to as we get through the final Spring Training games:

Who’s our Opening Day Starter?

In past years, it’s been John Patterson or Livan Hernandez. This year it will be Odalis Perez. With Shawn Hill’s health in question, and neither Bergmann nor Chico anything resembling ready to be the #1 starter, the job falls to Odalis Perez, who was only signed by the team to a minor league contract at the beginning of the Spring. The remainder of the rotation as it stands will be Bergmann, Chico and Redding, for the time being. With Redding leaving the game with back spasms yesterday, the fourth slot will likely fall to Joe Lannan until Redding’s at 100% again.

Who’s On First?!

One of the big questions in the off-season was: With Nick Johnson AND Dmitri Young healthy, who’s playing first base?

If you have an answer, please someone either tell Stan Kasten or put it in the comments. The Nats just don’t seem to have one. Both of them are quality players, each with redeeming features. We know what Dmitri can do, we saw it in his All-Star season in 2007, which probably why Johnson got most of the starts this Spring, as his recovery is probably the most scrutiny. Johnson is also probably the more tradable of the two, as his age will be a certain mark in his favor. I can’t imagine either wanting to ride the pine, and with Zimmerman a lock up at third, it’s unlikely they’d be able to make that move, either.

So, Who are these guys?!

The Nationals have proven one thing over their short stay in DC: Anyone the fans like gets shown the door pretty quickly. Livan was gone after a couple seasons, Jamey Carroll was traded to the Rockies, despite every team needing a Jamey Carroll, and of course there’s the release of Patterson this past week. New faces this year include emotionally-troubled outfielder Lastings Milledge (picked up in a trade for Brian Schneider and Ryan Church, both sentimental favorites), emotionally-troubled and criminally-susceptible Elijah Dukes, both of whom have behaved themselves in Spring Training, and put on a decently impressing display of hitting and defense. Each of them is a quality find, provided they don’t start getting arrested or shooting their mouths off in the local media. We’ll see.

Why are you optimistic?

Well, I’ve always looked on the bright side of…oh wait. You meant specifically. Here’s why: Great Defense, Improved Offense, and a new ballpark that will bring out the crowds. But generally, I figure the Nationals will do their damnedest to put up a winning season their first year in the new park. We won’t be the Mets, or the Phillies, but I think we can at least best the Braves. We’ll know in May if I’m being pollyanna, or realist.

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