Bowden takes questions from fans
Nationals GM addresses offseason issues in live Web chat
wilnieves: Q: Nice contract with Willie Harris, I think this was a great pickup. Will he be starting?
j_bowden: Thank you. Willie Harris was one of the best 10th men in the NL last year. He's capable of playing four positions well -- CF, LF, 2B, 3B. He was a good influence in the clubhouse -- our players look up to him and he is prepared to play everyday. We anticipate him being a valuable player off the bench for us over the next two years.
msyanks: Q: Has Nick Johnson fully recovered from his wrist injury?
j_bowden: Nick came into Washington to see medical director Wiemi Douoguih and hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham within the last 10 days. They feel that he will be 100-percent by the beginning of Spring Training.
wilnieves: Q: Will Dmitri Young be playing for the Major League team at all next year?
j_bowden: Dmitri battled injuries last year and continues to battle diabetes. He's worked very hard this offseason and has lost considerable weight. We expect him to be in the same shape in Spring Training that he was in when he won the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2007.
23707: Q: In terms of trades and free agents, what changes did you notice at the Winter Meetings this year?
j_bowden: There is little doubt that the economy and recession has had a dramatic impact on every aspect of all clubs' operations.
welovedc: Q: Mr. Bowden, how pleased are you with the results of the Rule 5 Draft?
j_bowden: Mike Rizzo, Dana Brown, Kris Kline and our Rule 5 expert Bill Singer did a tremendous job scouting, analyzing and prioritizing our Rule 5 board. We are very pleased to have drafted Terrell Young, who our scouting department felt had the highest upside of any pitcher in the draft. Subsequent to the draft, we have received positive feedback about Young from multiple clubs.
wilnieves: Q: Who should we expect to be called up from the Minors next season?
j_bowden: Of all of the players in our organization, more clubs ask for Jordan Zimmermann in trades than any other player. Last year, Jordan was a combined 10-3 with a 2.89 ERA in both Harrisburg and Potomac. He will be given consideration to make our rotation out of Spring Training.
wilnieves: Q: Any update on Teixeira? I would LOVE to see him wearing a Nationals uniform.
j_bowden: Our ownership and baseball operations department targeted Mark Teixeira from the very beginning as our No. 1 offseason priority, and our ongoing negotiations reflect our commitment to doing everything we can to return Mark to his hometown region with the Washington Nationals.
natsfan22: Q: Injuries devastated the Nationals last season. Has anything changed as far as the offseason program or training regimen, or was it just a case of terrible luck that incapacitated the team in '08?
j_bowden: We revamped our entire medical department, led by new medical director Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, who was trained by the Jobe-Kerlan group and has worked closely with Dr. James Andrews of Alabama, Dr. Timothy Kremchek of Cincinnati and Dr. Lewis Yocum of Los Angeles -- three of the most renowned baseball-centric orthopedic doctors. We also hired John Philbin as our strength and conditioning coach. He's the founder of the NSPA (National Strength Professionals Association), the internationally recognized certifying agency for the strength and conditioning field. We brought in Dr. Liz Wheeler, who was the personal physical therapist for former Cy Young award winner Johan Santana when he was with the Twins. We now feel that we've assembled an All-Star medical staff to help improve the conditioning, strength, flexibility and nutrition for our players.
JMJM: Q: Who do you foresee as our closer? Is the job Hanrahan's to lose? Thanks
j_bowden: With our present bullpen, Joel Hanrahan will be given every opportunity to be our closer. He has a 95-mph fastball with a power slider, and his 93 K's last year ranked second among NL relievers. If he continues to improve his command in and out of the strike zone, he has the potential to be a successful closer in the future.
exexpos: Q: What is the status of Justin Maxwell? Two years ago he seemed to show a lot of promise.
j_bowden: Justin Maxwell has overcome his injuries and is finally healthy. He showed improvement during the instructional league and he presently has 7 HR, which is tops in the Puerto Rican Winter League. He also has a .381 OBP with 13 SB. He will be given the opportunity to compete in Spring Training for a spot on the Major League team.
margolian: Q: Why would a high-priced free agent want to sign with and play for the Nationals this year?
j_bowden: Baseball has as much parity as we've had in the last few decades. Clubs have proven that in recent years. For example, the Tampa Bay Rays went from the worst record in baseball in 2007 to the World Series in 2008. The Colorado Rockies went from 76 wins in 2006 to the World Series in 2007. The Chicago Cubs won 66 games in 2006, finishing in 6th place, then went on to win the NL Central in 2007. Free agents understand in today's market that clubs can improve rapidly. Also, baseball people with vision recognize the momentum we've recently gained led by Mike Rizzo, Dana Brown and Bob Boone, which bodes well for our long-term future. We also have an unprecedented two picks in the top 10 of this year's draft, including the first overall pick. Free agents who are going to sign long-term contracts will have the vision to look at the direction of the organization, the strength of the farm system and the potential of long-term success over the course of their contract, rather than a snapshot of where the club finished in 2008.
natsonly: Q: What do you think our starting 5 will look like this year? Should we expect any additions to the starting rotation or any bullpen help, possibly a new closer?
j_bowden: We are developing a young core of potentially successful starting pitchers, including left-handers John Lannan and Scott Olsen and right-handers Collin Balester, Jordan Zimmermann, Shawn Hill and Shairon Martis. We are also currently having trade discussions with multiple clubs trying to acquire young starting pitching as well as pursuing starting pitching targets through non-tenders and free agency.
wilnieves: Q: I know Ryan Zimmerman was hampered by the shoulder injury last year. Is he 100 percent for next season?
j_bowden: I spoke to Ryan Zimmerman last week. He is 100 percent and expects to come into Spring Training poised for a breakout season.
j_bowden: Thanks for being here today with me. Happy holidays to you and your families... Scott Boras is on the phone, sorry gotta go.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.