Mailbag: How can team turn it around?
Beat reporter Bill Ladson answers Nationals fans' questions
The Nationals are 4-9 entering Tuesday's action against the Mets, and fans want to know how Washington can get better. Here are some answers to their questions.
It's been kind of a rough start for Nats fans. What have you witnessed by way of bright spots that will give the Nats some hope for the rest of the season?
-- Phil A., Shio, W.Va.
I like the way left-hander Matt Chico has come along. The high leg kick has worked wonders for him. Ryan Zimmerman is the best player on the team. If he is not doing the job offensively, he is still the best defensive third baseman in baseball.
I love Lastings Milledge's aggressiveness on the bases, and Nick Johnson is back to being the Nick Johnson of 2006. For the first time since I've been in DC, I like the fact that this team is not in denial when it comes to losing, and I credit Paul Lo Duca for it. He challenges the team to do better and is not afraid to tell the media about it.
I also believe that the Nationals will bounce back and finish the season over .500. I still say it's the best team Jim Bowden has put together since he became the GM in late 2004.
Can you please explain why Jesus Flores was demoted? He is hitting much better than Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada. I know they want him to get better at catching, but isn't he getting more experience in the Major Leagues?
-- Jason H., Rockwood, Tenn.
The Nationals want him to learn to be a top receiver on an everyday basis in the Minor Leagues, not twice a week in the big leagues. Even Flores admitted last week that he loses concentration behind the plate when he is not in there on an everyday basis.
I agree with the Nationals' decision. He'll be back soon. The team has made it clear that he is the catcher of the future.
With a serious shakeup needed after their nine-game slide, why haven't the Nats considered bringing up Alex Escobar, who is doing well for Triple-A Columbus. He would be a big improvement over Willie Harris.
-- Jacqui O., Washington, D.C.
I respectfully disagree with you. It's true Escobar is a talented player, but Harris brings a lot of positive energy to the table. Harris is an excellent outfielder and has a lot of speed. I think his bat will come around. I think you are going to see Harris more than you realized. It has become clear that he has become a favorite of Manny Acta's.
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What is Lenny Harris' philosophy on hitting? Does he preach patience?
-- Dean O., Winnipeg, Canada.
He has two philosophies. When it comes to the everyday players, Harris preaches patience and that they hit the ball the other way, so as not to limit oneself to being a pull hitter. When it comes to the bench players, Harris wants them to be aggressive and swing the bat. According to Harris, who is considered the best pinch-hitter of his time, there is no time to see what a pitcher has in his arsenal because the pinch-hitter has only one at-bat.
What's the story with Clint Everts?
-- Matt S., Reston, Va.
He is no longer a starter and has been put in the bullpen. This is his last chance to show the Nationals that he can be a top prospect because he is a free agent after the season.
What's the status of Ryan Wagner? When do we expect to see him back?
-- Kristen H., Alexandria, Va.
He is still strengthening his shoulder and the team is hoping that he is ready to play after the All-Star break.
Did Johnson lose a bet to someone in the clubhouse? How else do you explain his alleged "haircut?" It looks like it was done by a drunken sailor.
-- Chris B. Arlington, Va.
I don't have a problem with the haircut. Growing up in New York, the haircut reminded me of some of the haircuts John Riggins use to have with the Jets. Johnson looks good.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.