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Willingham likely to continue Nats tenure

Willingham likely to continue Nats tenure

Triple play: Three questions that need answers

1. Why should the Nationals sign right-hander Chien-Ming Wang?
Because the Nationals need pitching depth. Some might say Wang is better than most of the pitchers battling for the final two spots in the rotation. Jason Marquis, John Lannan and, most likely, Craig Stammen are locks for the rotation.

Spring Training
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2. Will general manager Mike Rizzo make more moves during Spring Training?

Yes. Rizzo will not be satisfied until Opening Day. He often looks beyond 2010, so expect him to acquire young players via trades.

3. Will the Nationals trade Josh Willingham before the season starts?
The odds are that he will be with the club for the whole season. A trade offer has to be overwhelming for Rizzo to deal Willingham. Besides, Rizzo often praises the veteran outfielder for being a leader in the clubhouse and a clutch hitter.

2009 record
59-103, 5th in the NL East

Projected batting order
1. CF Nyjer Morgan:
  .307 BA, .369 OBP, .388 SLG, 3 HRs, 39 RBI in 2009
2. SS Cristian Guzman:
  .284 BA, .306 OBP, .390 SLG, 6 HRs, 52 RBI in 2009
3. 3B Ryan Zimmerman:
  .292 BA, .364 OBP, .525 SLG, 33 HR, 106 RBI in 2009
4. 1B Adam Dunn:
  .267 BA, .398 OBP, .529 SLG, 38 HR, 105 RBI in 2009
5. LF Josh Willingham:
  .260 BA, .367 OBP, .496 SLG, 24 HR, 61 RBI in 2009
6. RF Elijah Dukes:
  .250 BA, .337 OBP, .393 SLG, 8 HRs, 58 RBI in 2009
7. C Ivan Rodriguez:
  .249 BA, .284 OBP, .384 SLG, 10 HRs, 47 RBI in 2009
8. 2B Adam Kennedy:
  .289 BA, .348 OBP, .410 SLG, 11 HR, 63 RBI in 2009

Projected rotation
1. Jason Marquis, 15-13, 4.04 ERA in 2009
2. John Lannan, 9-13, 3.88 ERA in 2009
3. Craig Stammen, 4-7, 5.12 ERA in 2009
4. Stephen Strasburg, 0-0, 0.00 ERA in 2009
5. Scott Olsen, 2-4, 6.03 ERA in 2009

Projected bullpen
Closer: Matt Capps, 27/32 saves, 5.80 ERA in 2009
RH setup man: Brian Bruney, 3.92 ERA in 2009
LH setup man: Tyler Walker, 3.06 ERA in 2009

The new guys
RHP Miguel Batista: He could be both a starter and a reliever. Last year, Batista served as a reliever for the Mariners, going 7-4 with a 4.04 ERA in 56 games. He also has a history with Rizzo, as they worked together when both were with the D-backs; Rizzo was the team's scouting director, and Batista was a starter. They were with Arizona in 2001 when it won its only World Series title.

RHP Bruney: In Bruney, Washington picks up a power arm who could pitch in the late innings. The hard-throwing right-hander was left off the Yankees' playoff roster in the first two rounds before being activated for the World Series against the Phillies.

RHP Capps: Capps will battle Bruney for the closer role. He has spent his entire five-year career with the Pirates, collecting 67 saves while posting a 3.61 ERA.

LHP Eddie Guardado: Nicknamed "Everyday Eddie," Guardado is considered a workhorse out of the bullpen. During his 17 seasons in the big leagues, he has played in 908 games and 187 saves. He is best known for his years as the Twins' closer. His best season was in 2002, when he saved 45 games and posted a 2.93 ERA. If he makes the team out of Spring Training, Guardado knows what his main role will be with the club: to become a mentor to the young relievers.

2B Kennedy: After Washington learned it was out of the Orlando Hudson race, the Nationals went after Kennedy. The left-handed-hitting Kennedy had a nice comeback season in 2009. The previous two years, he played in just a combined 202 games because of injuries.

RHP Marquis: He said he signed with Washington because the team made the necessary changes to improve in 2010. The Nationals drafted Strasburg No. 1 overall in the 2009 First-year Player Draft, signed Rodriguez and traded for Bruney during the Winter Meetings.

C Rodriguez: Affectionately known as Pudge, Rodriguez is expected to start behind the plate while Jesus Flores is recovering from right shoulder problems. The Nationals had targeted Rodriguez since the 2009 season came to an end. They think he has a lot left in the tank -- offensively and defensively -- and that he can be a huge difference in the clubhouse.

RHP: Walker: He is expected to be part of the bolstered relief corps, which includes Bruney, Capps and Guardado. Walker, 33, is coming off one of his better seasons for the Phillies. The seven-year veteran has played with the Mets, Giants and Rays.

Prospects to watch
SS Ian Desmond: Washington is thinking about making Desmond an all-purpose utility man -- playing all three outfield positions, shortstop and second base. Manager Jim Riggleman, however, wants to make sure that Guzman, who is coming off right shoulder surgery and foot problems, is healthy before putting Desmond in a utility role. Desmond is regarded as the team's shortstop of the future.

RHP Strasburg: Strasburg is recovering from a left knee injury, so it will be interesting to see if he will be 100 percent by Spring Training. If he pitches well during the exhibition season, Rizzo has not ruled out Strasburg making the Opening Day roster.

RHP Drew Storen: The Nationals improved their bullpen when they drafted Storen in the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Storen is looking to make the team out of Spring Training. His control has been superb, as he has walked just eight batters in 37 innings in his first professional season.

On the rebound
Capps: Opponents hit .324 against Capps in 2009. He acknowledged that his fastball, which is usually clocked between 92 and 96 mph, didn't have any movement, so he didn't rely on it as much as he should have.

Dukes: This is Dukes' last chance to reach his potential with the Nats. He is arbitration-eligible after the 2010 season, and it's unlikely the team will have him back unless he has a productive, injury-free season. In two years with Washington, Dukes has played in just 188 games, but he vows things will be different in '10.

Long gone
C Josh Bard: When Flores missed most of the season, Bard found himself in a platoon situation with Wil Nieves. Bard played in 90 games and hit .230 with two home runs and 31 RBIs.

RHP Livan Hernandez: He joined the Nationals as a free agent on Aug. 26 after the Mets had released him six days earlier. His job was to give the club innings and to be a role model to the young pitching staff. Hernandez pitched 48 2/3 innings and went 2-4 with a 5.36 ERA.

OF Austin Kearns: Kearns was a great teammate and worked hard, but he was a disappointment when it came to his bat after coming to Washington with a lot of hype when former general manager Jim Bowden acquired him from the Reds in July 2006.

Bowden predicted that Kearns would hit 40 home runs and drive in over 100 runs in a season, but it didn't happen. Kearns' best season in Washington was in 2007, when he hit .266 with 16 home runs and 74 RBIs. A lot of baseball experts felt he was too vulnerable to inside pitches.

Injuries took a toll on Kearns during the past two seasons. He played in only 86 games in 2008 because of elbow and foot problems.

RHP Mike MacDougal: MacDougal saved 20 games for the Nationals, but the club decided to let him go because they were not sure how he would recover from hip surgery.

LHP Ron Villone: Riggleman called the reliever a leader by example because he wanted to pitch on a regular basis and watched the game from the dugout after completing his work on the mound. Villone pitched in 63 games and had a 4.25 ERA.

1B Dmitri Young: In the past two seasons, Young played in only 50 games because of illness and injury. His best season with the Nationals was in 2007, when he hit .320 with 13 home runs and 74 RBIs, earning National League Comeback Player of the Year honors.

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

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }