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Inbox: Will Span hit leadoff for Nats in 2014?

Beat reporter Bill Ladson answers questions from fans

Inbox: Will Span hit leadoff for Nats in 2014? play video for Inbox: Will Span hit leadoff for Nats in 2014?

Do you think that Denard Span will be the leadoff hitter, with maybe Ian Desmond batting second? If so, shouldn't the order be reversed since Desmond is a much better offensive player?
-- Timothy F., Montreal

Span will be the leadoff hitter, and he did a great job during the second half of last season. I believe his consistency will continue in 2014. But I see Desmond in the middle of the order and as an RBI guy. Bryce Harper, who can hit anywhere, more than likely will hit third. Here is how I see the starting eight as of now:

Span CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Harper LF
Jayson Werth RF
Adam LaRoche 1B
Desmond SS
Wilson Ramos C
Anthony Rendon 2B

The Nationals recently signed D.C. native Emmanuel Burriss to a Minor League contract. Is he a viable candidate for a backup role with the club in 2014?
-- Ray G., Gettysburg, Pa.

There is no doubt that he is a candidate. Playing for his hometown team may re-energize his game. But, as of now, I can't rule out Danny Espinosa. One can hope that Espinosa can adjust to a backup role. At the same time, if Espinosa doesn't start, I can see him going somewhere via trade. I'm sure there are teams who feel he is more than a bench player. I guess what I'm saying is, I don't see him moving ahead of Rendon on the depth chart.

If Espinosa makes the team as a bench player, my concern is his clubhouse attitude. Do you think management shares this concern as well?
-- Jim T., Beaufort, S.C.

The answer is no. One thing I can say about Espinosa is that he works hard. It's just a matter of adjusting as a bench player. If he did have an attitude problem, a person like Werth would set him straight. It's a non-issue. Espinosa will not be a problem for the Nationals.

What is the situation behind the plate? Ever since Ivan Rodriguez retired, it seems that's been an injury-riddled spot. Why aren't the Nationals making any moves for a backup catcher?
-- Patrick W., Wright City, Okla.

Trust me, the Nationals have tried to acquire a catcher. They had interest in Jose Molina, but he wanted to play close to home. Remember, they signed Chris Snyder to a Minor League deal, and he could provide power off the bench. I also have to see how Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano play during Spring Training. I'm not ruling them out even though they had rough years with the bat.

How come Zach Walters is not being given a decent shot at making the team out of Spring Training? He has pop and is adequate defensively.
-- Kermit E. Gettysburg, Pa.

I think Walters will be given a good shot at making the team. Manager Matt Williams knows him well from when both were with the D-backs. Like Espinosa, Walters has to have a good Spring Training with the bat and the glove. Based on last year, I think he can be an adequate backup.

Would you try to get Eric O'Flaherty on the Nats if you were Mike Rizzo?
-- Will K., Washington

It depends how you look at it. The team knows he will not be ready for Opening Day because of Tommy John surgery. But if he is ready to throw by mid-summer, he is a guy they would consider. According to reports, however, he is leaning toward re-signing with the Braves.

Shouldn't the Nats bid on pitcher Masahiro Tanaka?
-- Mark. K., Montreal

Tanaka would make the Nats even better, but I don't see them making a bid for him. The rotation is set with the exception of the fifth spot, and that will come in-house with Tanner Roark, Ross Detwiler and Taylor Jordan battling for the spot.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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