With the current roster, how do you picture the Opening Day lineup and starting rotation? -- Zach W., Lorton, Va.
If the season were to start today, the Opening Day lineup would be:
1. Nyjer Morgan, CF
2. Ian Desmond, SS
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Jayson Werth, RF
5. Adam LaRoche, 1B
6. Wilson Ramos, C
7. Roger Bernadina, LF
8. Danny Espinosa, 2B
9. Livan Hernandez, P
And the rotation would be:
Jordan Zimmermann, RHP
Jason Marquis, RHP
John Lannan, LHP
Yunesky Maya, RHP
Keep this in mind: I expect general manager Mike Rizzo to stay busy and make further additions that could affect the starting lineup and rotation. I would not be surprised if Rodriguez was traded before Opening Day in order to make room for Ramos and Jesus Flores. Ramos and Flores belong in the big leagues in 2011, with Ramos as the starter.
When the Nats acquired right-hander Shairon Martis in 2006, he seemed to have limitless potential. His progress has certainly flat lined in recent years. Is he still viewed realistically as part the Nats' future plans? -- Ray G., Gettysburg, Pa.
Right now, the answer is no. Martis has to come to Spring Training with a different attitude. He must be in better shape that he was last year and pitch better than he did in the last two years. This is an important Spring Training for Martis.
You said that Michael Morse is "overmatched" by top of the line pitching, yet he hit substantially better then Bernadina, who constantly looked overmatched. How can Bernadina be a better option? -- Matt L., Bethesda Md.
I never said Bernadina is a better option. In my opinion, the signing of Rick Ankiel sent a message to Bernadina, who ended the 2010 season in a terrible slump, hitting .219 after the All-Star break. Bernadina must have a great Spring Training to make the 25-man roster.
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What are the expectations for Morgan this spring? -- Lyle, A. Alexandria, Va.
A lot is expected of Morgan. If the season started today, he would be a platoon player. He knows that he must have success against left-handed pitching starting in Spring Training. If he doesn't, you will see Werth in center field against lefties.
Why don't the Nationals wait until next year to find a first baseman? The pickings will be much better. Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder will become free agents. Why not go from within this coming year? -- Jonah S., Burke, Va.
Rizzo said he was not comfortable with the first basemen that he had before signing Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal. Does this mean the Nationals will not go after Pujols or Fielder? I doubt it. However, I would not be surprised if Pujols stayed with the Cardinals. Fielder's agent is Scott Boras, so it would not surprise me if the Nationals had interest in Fielder.
Why doesn't your statement "play the kids" include Morse? -- Dylan I., Belmont, N.Y.
Morse is 28 years old and will be 29 in March. I would like to see him get a chance to play often, but that is not my decision to make. When I say, "Play the Kids," I mean the Nationals should play athletes who are 25 or younger.
I think the Nationals need to beef up the bench besides Morse. Alberto Gonzalez is OK, but we should try to nail down some good bench depth. Any ideas about available players other than Willie Harris? -- Bobby M., North Potomac, Md.
For starters, the Nationals' roster stood at 41 entering Monday. So whomever they sign, the player most likely will be on a Minor League deal when Spring Training starts. I know there is a possibility that Willie Bloomquist and Randy Winn could be with the Nationals. David Eckstein's name has been mentioned, but I was told that the club has not talked to Eckstein's agent in a long time. We could also see Ankiel on the bench if he doesn't beat out Bernadina for the left-field job.
Why not take a shot on Manny Ramirez? It may sound like a joke, but the Nationals could sign him to a one-year deal. Let him split time in left with Morse, move Ankiel and Bernadina to center field and see what happens. Ramirez hit .298 last year. What could possibly go wrong? -- Xavier N., Houston
A lot. He is a designated hitter and the last thing the Nationals need is a guy who can't field his position. The Nationals need to get better defensively, not worse.
Do you think Danny Espinosa is our second baseman of the future, or is Stephen Lombardozzi the guy? What should we do with the other one? -- Carson B., Baltimore
I think it all depends on Desmond. If his error total doesn't go down, I could see Espinosa playing short and Lombardozzi playing second. I've heard Rizzo rave about Lombardozzi, so I see him as the second baseman of the future. In another scenario, I could see Rizzo trading Desmond or Espinosa to make room for Lombardozzi.