Inbox: Would Dukes work at leadoff?

Inbox: Would Dukes work in leadoff spot?

Should Elijah Dukes be the leadoff hitter? Do the Nationals support Manny Acta? Those are two of the many questions Nationals fans have been asking. Here some answers to their queries.

Leadoff is my main concern at this point. Truthfully, I would like to see Dukes lead off and see what kind of pressure he can put on starting pitchers. Speed and power on top could put a scare into the other teams. Any thoughts on this one?
-- Don M., Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

It's funny you should ask this question. There was talk recently among the baseball writers about Dukes leading off. Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post was the first to mention it, but I disagreed with him because I believe Dukes should be in the middle of the order behind Adam Dunn. Acta was asked the same question about Dukes leading off, and the skipper said he prefers to have Dukes in the middle of the order.

I don't think Acta is the reason the Nationals are off to a slow start, but are there some people in the organization who think he is to blame?
-- Alex C., Montreal

On Sunday, acting general manager Mike Rizzo said he and the organization support Acta. "I support Manny Acta and so does the organization," Rizzo said. "He is our manager and a good young manager. I think he has handled the young ballclub right."

I was pleasantly surprised to see outfielder Austin Kearns have a decent Spring Training, however, he seems to be back to his old unproductive self. Shouldn't the Nationals see more of Josh Willingham in the outfield and give Kearns the shakeup like Lastings Milledge got?
-- Frank W., Fairfax, Va.

I wouldn't go that far. Kearns works hard and is an above-average outfielder. The batting average isn't there, but he also is tied for second on the team in RBIs with 10. I think Acta has no choice but to play Kearns often.

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When it comes to Kearns, I never look at his batting average. I always look at the RBIs. He was never productive in that department for the Nationals until this year.

What's up with all these guys -- Ronnie Belliard, Cristian Guzman, Willie Harris and Anderson Hernandez -- pulling up lame while running the bases? I thought hiring a new strength and conditioning coach might have helped, but something's wrong here.
-- Maurice N., Fairfax, Va.

You are right. Something is not clicking here. I'm not a doctor, but Acta seems to think it's bad luck. I don't know about that.

Don't you think the Nationals made a mistake in not signing second baseman Orlando Hudson? He is apparently healthy and certainly hitting and fielding well. I think they blew it big time.
-- Peter R., Vancouver

I don't think the Nationals made a mistake in that regard because they have good enough second basemen in Hernandez and Belliard. The reason Washington didn't sign Hudson is because he failed a physical the club gave him before Spring Training started.

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