Mailbag: Predicting the Nats' '07 record

Mailbag: Predicting the Nats' record for 2007?

What do you think of the Nationals' Spring Training so far? Every time I look, the opposing team has scored a lot of runs. How concerned should we be?
-- Matt S., McLean Va.

Despite having a losing record, I think Spring Training has gone well. I like the fact that manager Manny Acta has been quick in making his decisions on roster cuts. I also like the fact that team is working hard every day. Once the Nationals make more roster cuts, I think the pitching will get better.

The Nationals' pitching has not been great in Spring Training. Maybe if they had spent $5 million on two proven veterans, they could be a lot more solid. What are your thoughts?
-- Arjun V., Westwood, Mass.

For what was out on the free agent market, I think the Nationals did the right thing by not spending a dime. In my opinion, it wasn't worth spending money on pitchers such as Mark Redman, Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly. None of those pitchers have a proven track record of success. If you are going to spend bug bucks, spend it on a person with more of an upside.

I'm starting to bite my nails for Nationals prospect Ryan Church. I think he's a potential star, but he's off to another slow start. Do you think Acta will have patience with Church until he gets into the groove again?
-- Earl B., Sebring, Fla.

Acta will be patient with Church. Acta also said that Church will be the starting left fielder no matter what happens in Spring Training. It looks like Church is starting to relax now. He had two hits on Sunday against the Dodgers.

I am a huge Mariners fan and was a big supporter of outfielder Chris Snelling. I'm just wondering how he is performing, and if he will get to be a starter this year for the Nats.
-- Jerry L., Spokane, Wash.

Snelling is performing very well. However, if he makes the team, I see him coming off the bench. Their outfield is already set with Church, Nook Logan and Austin Kearns.

Does Zechry Zinicola have a realistic shot at making the big club, perhaps working out of the 'pen this season?
-- Michael R., St. John's, Newfoundland

He will not be on the Opening Day roster, but if he continues to be lights-out on the mound, I would not be surprised if we saw him with the big-league club sometime this season.

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Are you surprised with Tony Womack being released so quickly? I don't think he got a fair chance to prove himself.
-- Alex C., Montreal

I was not surprised because the acquisition of Ronnie Belliard meant that Womack was going to see less playing time. I also think they want younger backups. Womack is 37 years old.

The pitching looks worse than we feared. Who do you see emerging as the starters? The 1962 Mets lost 120 games. Will this team chase that mark?
-- John S., Alexandria, Va.

John, you are jumping the gun. Shawn Hill, Matt Chico, Billy Traber and Jason Bergmann have stood out.

I think this team is going to be all right under Acta. I don't see them chasing the 1962 Mets. The Nationals are a young and hungry team. The Mets were an old and crusty team with no pitching whatsoever.

What's the story on shortstop Josh Wilson? Is he good enough to make the team?
-- Pedro G., Arlington, Va.

I mentioned last week that Wilson was off to a slow start and didn't have good range to his left. Since then, he has played extremely well. His swing reminds me that of Hall of Fame Brewers shortstop Robin Yount. Will he make the team? It's hard to say. It's still too early to make that prediction.

I found this odd from your notes article about John Patterson pitching in an accelerated intrasquad game. What exactly is an "accelerated game"?
-- Brian G., Washington, D.C.

The Nationals invited their top prospects to a special camp to help improve their skills. Those players would eventually play in intrasquad games. Major Leaguers such as Patterson, Ray King, Ryan Wagner and Chad Cordero have been getting work in the accelerated games because there are not enough innings for the many pitchers they have in Major League camp.

I'm excited about the prospect of having the reliable and durable King in the 'pen this season. What do you think?
-- Todd B., Smithsburg, Md.

I think King was a great pickup. I will be very surprised if he doesn't make the team. Acta has stressed how much he wants lefties out of the bullpen.

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