Everyone is saying that it's going to be a two-team race in the National League East between the Nationals and Braves. Do you think the Phillies have a shot to contend with both these teams, or is their time done?
-- Mike W., New Jersey
I will never count out the Phillies because of their starting rotation, which features Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. The addition of Michael Young will make them better as well. However, you can't help but be amazed by all the moves the Nationals and Braves have made. Provided that Gonzalez is not suspended, Washington's rotation is outstanding and Atlanta improved tremendously by acquiring Justin and B.J. Upton.
What is the status of Lucas Giolito? When do you see him pitching in D.C.?
-- Frank M., Gainesville, Fla.
Giolito is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. He probably will not pitch in a Minor League game until after the All-Star break. Despite the injury, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo ranked Giolito 74th on the list of the Top 100 Minor League prospects. I would give him three years before we see him in a Major League game.
How do you think Henry Rodriguez will do? And what do you think his role in the bullpen will be?
– Kevin L., Towson, Md.
Rodriguez has to make the team first and show that his right elbow is 100 percent. If he does, I could see him pitching in the middle innings this year. Rodriguez is out of Minor League options, so I could see the Nats attempt to trade him if he is not impressive this spring.
Can you predict Washington's Opening Day lineup if all available players are healthy?
-- Dan D., Ontario, Canada
I have not talked to Johnson about the lineup, but if the season started today, the lineup would likely be the following:
Denard Span, CF
Ian Desmond, SS
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Adam LaRoche, 1B
Bryce Harper, LF
Jayson Werth, RF
Danny Espinosa, 2B
Kurt Suzuki, C
Stephen Strasburg, P
After announcing his retirement, do you think Brian Schneider is a possible candidate to replace Johnson as manager of the Nationals?
-- Zach L., Potomac, Md.
I don't see it at this time. Let Schneider get some Minor League experience first. But I do believe that he will make a great manager one day. When I covered Schneider in Montreal and Washington, I thought he was a great game-caller and leader. Entering this season, he was the best catcher I ever covered.
I think Garcia has to be on the Opening Day roster, so is he in the bullpen or someplace else? Can the 25-man roster accommodate him and all the other pitchers?
-- Jon G., Accokeek, Md.
There is no question in my mind that that Garcia will be on the roster unless he has a bad Spring Training. He has a fan in Johnson. I think when it's all said and done, Garcia will end up in the bullpen.