With the Nationals completing their fifth month of the 2006 season, a lot of baseball fans want to know about the team and its chances of getting better in the National League East.
Here are some answers to your questions. Keep those e-mails coming. Thanks a bunch.
Isn't it time the Nats stop using outfielder Damian Jackson in important situations? Sunday's three-error performance was atrocious. -- Robert L., Leesburg, Va.
No, I do not. Not playing Jackson will only make it worse. He made the errors, in part, because of lack of playing time. I have to commend Jackson for coming forward on Sunday and admitting that he was at fault. He didn't make any excuses.
I'm not one to jump to conclusions about a player after a short time, but I'm still curious about what general manager Jim Bowden sees in Austin Kearns. What makes Kearns worth the price of the pitching potential given up to get him? -- Robert B., Virginia Beach, Va.
It's Kearns' potential. He's capable of hitting 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. I think it's too early to judge Kearns. We should give him at least a year before we evaluate him. The Nationals are trying to adjust his swing to RFK. He is currently a fly-ball hitter and the team is trying to make him a line-drive hitter.
My question has to do with catcher Brian Schneider and next year. What is the catching situation with Robert Fick and what chance does Brandon Harper have with the team in the future? -- Larry, Houston
There's no doubt Schneider will be the everyday catcher. The Fick/Harper situation will be interesting. I think it will depend on who ends the season on a hot streak. Both players have done a good job, thus far.
Alex Escobar's potential appears to be great. In your opinion, how good can he be if he gets healthy? -- Jeff, Sacramento, Calif.
I think Escobar has the potential of being a great player. He has a quick bat and he's not a bad outfielder. But the major issue is health. His hamstrings are not 100 percent, but he is gutting it out. He realizes what's at stake.
Do you think that Kory Casto has the chance to become a valuable player off the bench for the Nationals over the next few years? -- David, Seaford, Del.
I don't see Casto as a bench player on this team. If Alfonso Soriano is not re-signed, I could see Casto as a leading candidate to be the regular left fielder. Casto is just too good to be a bench player. Casto is the best prospect the Nationals' Minor League system has right now.
Have a question about the Nationals?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Nationals beat reporter Bill Ladson for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
It seems to me that Randy St. Claire deserves more recognition than he has received. What do you think? -- Joel, Chaseman, Wash.
St. Claire is an excellent pitching coach. His work with Hector Carrasco and Ryan Wagner goes without saying. In my four years covering the team, I've learned so much from St. Claire. He is the one that taught me the importance of first-pitch strikes and pitching mechanics. There's not a day that goes by that he's not looking at video and dissecting a pitcher's motion.
Is Ryan Zimmerman a candidate for the Rookie of the Year? With a .283 average, 17 home runs and 83 RBIs, he should be. -- Andrew R., Washington D.C.
Yes, Zimmerman is a candidate for Rookie of the Year. In my opinion, he should be the leading candidate. To me, he is the best all-around player on the Nationals. His defense is superb. It reminds me of Graig Nettles. He's a great base runner and his offense is outstanding.
What is Jose Vidro's future with the Nationals? Should the Nationals trade him for some young prospects, or should we bring him back? -- Aaron B., Springfield, Va.
I see the Nationals trying to trade Vidro for prospects after the season. I believe they will go younger at second base. It could be tough trading Vidro because he has two years left on his contract.
Do you think Cristian Guzman is still in the Nats' future plans with the arrival of Felipe Lopez? -- Rich R., Slingerlands, N.Y.
That's a good question. I don't see the Nationals releasing Guzman. If they trade Guzman, the Nationals most likely will have to eat most of the contract. Another scenario is putting Lopez at second and keeping Guzman at shortstop.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.