Mailbag: How will fans treat Soriano?

Mailbag: How will Nats fans treat Soriano?

With the Nationals starting their second season on April 3 against the Mets at Shea Stadium, a lot of fans want to know about the team as the players work on their skills during Spring Training.

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

Do you think Nationals fans will boo Alfonso Soriano at all this year? Shouldn't fans just make him feel at home at this point? The team really seems to have taken to him.
-- Dustin C., Nova Scotia, Canada

Two things have to happen in order for the fans to greet Soriano warmly: He has to be a productive hitter and he must play hard. No question, he has looked good with the bat, but if he doesn't run the bases hard or continues to have problems in the outfield, the fans will likely let Soriano know how they feel. Manager Frank Robinson has already talked to Soriano about the way he runs the bases.

Who will be the leadoff hitter? I think Soriano would be good.
-- Matt C., Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Robinson has indicated that Soriano will not be the leadoff hitter and wants him to hit in the middle of the order. The most likely scenario is having Ryan Church or Marlon Byrd lead off. Of the two, Byrd is the one who has the most experience in the spot.

But from what I've seen so far, the Nationals look like a much better team with Soriano at the top of the order. He gives instant offense like he did when he homered against the Astros over the weekend.

When the Rangers acquired Soriano, Michael Young moved from second to shortstop. Why didn't Jose Vidro considered this?
-- Markus J., Atlantic City, N.J.

It's simple -- Vidro can't play another position and is better defensively than Soriano. Robinson has announced that if Vidro were to get hurt, Soriano would not move to second base. Damian Jackson moist likely would likely get the first shot.

How come the Nationals don't need a left-handed starter? What was wrong with Billy Traber and his 2.25 spring ERA?
-- Joe T., Silver Spring, Md.

There's nothing wrong with the job Traber did, but they are committed to Tony Armas Jr., Pedro Astacio and Ramon Ortiz in the rotation. Don't be surprised that if one of those pitchers falter, Traber is one of the first pitchers called up.

Who do you think will win the center field job -- Byrd, Church or Brandon Watson?
-- Timothy F., Montreal

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Right now, it's a dead heat between Byrd and Church. Byrd has been consistent all spring with the bat and is a good outfielder. While Church hasn't hit for average, he leads the team in walks with 10.

Watson has hit for average and has a decent on-base percentage, but he still needs work in the outfield. He is a much better left fielder than center fielder.

From watching Friday's and Sunday's games on TV, and looking at Saturday's box score, Chad Cordero's complete absence from action got me to thinking that he may be injured. Do you know anything that you're at liberty to reveal?
-- Steve H., Washington, D.C.

Cordero is not hurt. He was scheduled to pitch against the Cardinals, but on Monday it was revealed that he has a stomach virus. He is expected to pitch on Tuesday against the Indians. Cordero also has pitched in Minor League games this past week.

Why have the Nationals stockpiled on second basemen this year?
-- Gary G., Irvine, Calif.

General manager Jim Bowden put an emphasis on depth, and the Nationals are preparing for injuries this year. Look at the shortstop situation: When Cristian Guzman went down with a shoulder injury this spring, Bowden had Royce Clayton ready to take over.

What is the upside of Watson? Can he be an everyday center fielder who leads off on a winning club?
-- Saurin M., Marlton, N.J.

He can be, but he needs to learn to take pitches and improve his defense if he wants to stay in center field. He doesn't have good range in center; his best position is left field, because he looked so smooth when he played there last year.

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