Nats eager for camp after busy offseason

Nats eager for camp after busy offseason

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman believes the front office did its job improving the club this offseason.

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The Nationals signed free agents such as reliever Matt Capps, second baseman Adam Kennedy, starter Jason Marquis and catcher Ivan Rodriguez, and they traded for reliever Brian Bruney. All five players are expected to have a major impact on the team.

By the time the Nationals' pitchers and catchers have their first workout on Sunday, Riggleman said it's time for the players to show that the front office made the right moves.

"I don't know how it's going to play out in the standings, but I think we are going to be a better ballclub," Riggleman said. "Some of that will depend on how the other clubs have improved.

"We can only take care of our business, and I think [general manager] Mike Rizzo has given us a great opportunity with the roster he has put together to make a move in the standings. It's going to be up to us. It's just talk and it's just on paper. I feel like Mike Rizzo, Stan Kasten and the Lerners have done their job. It's up to us to run with it."

Marquis took it even further than Riggleman. He said the Nationals shouldn't accept being just a .500 ballclub -- they should be looking to play in the postseason. Marquis is used to winning, having played in the playoffs five times in the past decade.

"The Nationals made some great moves, and they are going in the right direction," Marquis said. "We have young guys with [pitchers] Stephen Strasburg, Craig Stammen and Drew Storen -- guys who have potential. We just need a couple of veteran leaders around to just help them around the game of baseball.

"I don't know why we can't shoot for the stars. Why do you want to limit yourself to 81 wins? Why do I want to limit myself to 15 wins? If I'm taking the ball 34 times, I should win 34 times. We are going to step on the field 162 times -- we should win 162 times. You can't say, 'let's win 81 games.' Then you're putting a number, and you are satisfied with 81 wins. I don't think you should ever be satisfied."

Nationals position players are not required to report until Feb. 24, but center fielder Nyjer Morgan is already working out at the team's complex. He is swinging the bat without any problems, proving that his left hand is 100 percent.

Morgan suffered a broken hand sliding headfirst into third base against the Cubs on Aug. 27. At first, Morgan thought he dislocated his fingers and figured he would stay in the game. But he realized the injury was worse when he couldn't grip a bat.

During Spring Training, Morgan is expected to slide feet first instead of headfirst like he has in the past. Morgan will be the Nationals' leadoff hitter and is looking to win the first stolen-base crown of his career.

"I have to stay on the field. I don't want to take away any of my aggressiveness, but I have to be smart" Morgan said.

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