Mailbag: Clayton the solution at short?

Mailbag: Could Clayton push Guzman to bench?

With the Nationals ending their first season in Washington with an 81-81 record, a lot of fans want to know about the team as the offseason draws to a close and Spring Training nears.

Here are some answers to your questions. Keep those e-mails coming.

With shortstop Royce Clayton talking to the Nationals, is there any chance that Cristian Guzman could lose his starting position after such a bad year? I would much rather see Clayton at shortstop.
-- Ed K., Harrisonburg, Va.

According to Clayton, manager Frank Robinson believes he could compete for the starting job at shortstop if he signs with the Nationals. I agree that Guzman needs some competition after such a bad year. However, if Guzman loses his starting job, the team would have a very expensive bench player. It would be tough to trade Guzman because of his contract. The way I see it, Guzman is here to stay.

Does general manager Jim Bowden realize that what the Nationals really need right now is a starting pitcher? He's busy trying to sign Sammy Sosa and Clayton, but last I checked, neither of those guys can pitch. We already have a glut of outfielders fighting for playing time.
-- Wesley E., Arlington, Va.

Wesley, Bowden realizes the team needs pitching. But there are no quality pitchers to sign. Remember, Jeff Weaver is out there, but he wants $10 million, which is out of the Nationals' price range. They would love to pick up a quality pitcher via trade, but most of the teams are telling Washington that its farm system is too dry.

Don't forget that this team finished last in the Major Leagues in hitting last year. So I can understand why Bowden is still going after hitters.

What role, if any, will right-hander Darrell Rasner play in Washington in 2006?
-- Brad S., Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

As of now, he is a long shot to make the team. But I would love to see him get a chance to prove himself. Last season, he started one game and didn't see much playing time after that. I thought that was wrong to do to a rookie like Rasner. I hope Ranser doesn't lose his confidence because of it.

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I looked on the World Baseball Classic roster for the Dominican team and it has Sosa on it. So how does that affect his chances of signing with the Nationals?
-- Thad M., Kissimmee, Fla.

It doesn't affect the possible signing of Sosa at all. But I don't think it would be wise for Sosa to play in the WBC because he has to show Bowden and Robinson that he can still play the game. Doing well in the WBC, in my opinion, would mean nothing to the Nationals. He would have to do the job in front of their eyes in Spring Training.

Who do you think is the franchise player of the Nationals?
-- Jon S., Washington

I don't think they have a franchise player right now, but if I had to pick one for the future, it would be third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. I look for him to be the team's best hitter and run producer for years to come.

If they make the final roster, would Jose Vidro or Jose Guillen participate in the World Baseball Classic?
-- Dustin C., Nova Scotia, Canada

Dr. Bruce Thomas said he would give Vidro a "cautious yes" to play in the WBC. According to Thomas, Vidro has lost weight and his right knee is doing much better. However, I don't see Guillen playing in the WBC because he is still recovering from a left shoulder injury and is not expected to play in a game until mid-March.

Are the Nationals going to get any more catchers? I know Brian Schneider is fantastic, but what if he gets hurt?
-- Izzy J., Washington

I don't see how they can acquire any more backup catchers. There aren't any good ones left. Plus, the team has nothing in the Minor League system to help them right away.

I was wondering about the status of Clint Everts.
-- Josh L., Grand Rapids, Mich.

Everts, who was the Expos' first-round pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, has recovered from Tommy John surgery. He played for the Vermont Expos last season and went 0-1 with a 3.79 ERA in games. He struck out 21 batters in 19 innings. I wouldn't be surprised if he moved up to high Class A Potomac or Double-A Harrisburg.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.