WASHINGTON -- Published reports have indicated that the Nationals are trying to acquire free-agent right-hander Chris Young. Not true, according to a baseball source, who declined to say why the club doesn't have interest.
Young hasn't pitched a full season since 2007 because of right shoulder problems and a nasal fracture.
The Nationals have been looking for a No. 1 starter since the offseason, but have come up short. However, general manager Mike Rizzo is confident that Washington's current starting staff will improve in 2011.
Rizzo pointed out that Jason Marquis, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Chien-Ming Wang will be 100 percent healthy, while John Lannan and Yunesky Maya will be more consistent on the mound. Add Livan Hernandez to the mix, the Nationals could have a strong rotation, according to Rizzo.
"I'm really excited about our rotation," Rizzo said. "I see a much-improved Jordan Zimmermann, who is going to take the next step after having Tommy John surgery. He is going to turn into the pitcher we think he is and 14 other clubs think he is. He is the guy that is in demand every time we try to make a trade.
"Zimmermann won one game last year, Marquis won two, Detwiler won one and Maya won zero. I think there are six guys that are going to be much better than they were last year. The pitching is going to improve because we have guys who have track records that say they are going to improve.
"Marquis is going to get back to being Jason Marquis. Yunesky Maya is going to be the guy our scouts thought he was when we signed him."
Rizzo said he takes responsibility for the rough rookie season Maya had in the big leagues. Maya allowed 17 earned runs in 26 innings. Rizzo acknowledged that he rushed Maya to the big leagues.
"I take the blame for that," Rizzo said. "Here is a guy who hasn't pitched competitively since the World Baseball Classic when we scouted him. He went through the process of going to the Dominican Republic. Then we signed him and he had a crash-course Spring Training to get ready for the big leagues. He had a few Minor League starts, and I brought him to the big leagues.
"It was impatience on my part. It was a pitcher that wanted to be in the big leagues very badly. If I had to do it over again, I would give him more time in the Minor Leagues and have him 100 percent ready to go for Spring Training."
Maya showed signs this offseason that he is on his way to becoming a quality pitcher. He was named the 2010 Dominican Winter League Pitcher of the Year.
Maya went 4-2 with a 1.32 ERA in eight games for Leones del Escogido. He struck out 42 batters in 41 innings. His fastball was clocked as high as 93 mph. While pitching for the Nationals, it was clocked at 89 mph.
Third annual NatsFest set for March 30
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals will host the annual NatsFest at Nationals Park on March 30 so that more fans can celebrate the beginning of baseball alongside players, coaches and team personnel. This move will offer fans access to a fun-filled festival featuring a variety of activities that include the team's 2011 roster.
The third annual NatsFest will be open to fans of all ages and includes opportunities to watch the Nationals practice, enjoy a meet-and-greet with players and coaches and much more. A full schedule of events will be available in the coming weeks.
"The feedback we received from our fans this offseason convinced us to do something new, exciting and unique," said Nationals chief operating officer Andrew C. Feffer. "Unlike previous years, the 2011 NatsFest will be more inclusive for all our fans and offer them opportunities to interact with their favorite Nationals. Through this event, we hope to engage our fans like never before and get them excited for what is sure to be an electrifying baseball season."
The cost of the event is $10 for adults and $5 for children under the age of 12. Season-ticket holders will receive complimentary event tickets in their season-ticket package. Parking will be available in Nationals Park Garages B and C, located on N Street SE between South Capitol Street and First Street.
The 2011 season-ticket packages and the popular "Buy 2 Get 2" season-ticket promotion are currently available and include excellent seat locations throughout the ballpark. Those who don't want to miss a minute of the 2011 season can become Nationals season-ticket holders by visiting nationals.com/2011.
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.