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01/29/07 10:00 AM ET

Mailbag: What's on Nats' to-do list?

Nationals beat reporter Bill Ladson answers fans' questions

Do you think the Nationals will make a trade before the 2007 season starts?
-- Matt S., McLean, Va.

I don't put anything past general manager Jim Bowden. Since December, we've heard that closer Chad Cordero and outfielder Ryan Church are on the trading block. Will they be traded? It wouldn't surprise me if they are dealt if the Nats receive legitimate prospects in return.

The starting eight looks fairly competitive for the Nats, but the bench looks pretty thin. At this point, who do you think will make up the bench?
-- Blaine P., Ocala, Fla.

It's early and a lot could change, but here's my prediction for the bench:

Robert Fick, catcher
Jesus Flores, catcher
Alex Escobar, outfielder
Larry Broadway, first baseman
Jose Macias, outfielder

As we watch the Nats in Spring Training, what are the key points to watch for, especially the pitchers who are competing for the four spots in the rotation?
-- Dan S., New York

It's simple. Watch the pitchers -- especially potential starters Jerome Williams, Tim Redding, Mike O'Connor and Shawn Hill -- who can get the most outs and out of the most jams. I don't think wins and strikeouts are all that important in Spring Training.

What would it take to pry right-hander Carl Pavano from the Yankees? I think a change of scenery and a return to the National League might do wonders for him.
-- Thom H., Stillwater, N.J.

The Yankees will have to pay his entire salary and would want a decent player in return. However, getting Pavano would be just as risky as signing all those Minor League pitchers from this past November. Pavano is coming off a variety of injuries and hasn't pitched in a Major League game since 2005.

With so many players leaving the Nationals, how's the morale? It seems like they might be the Marlins of '06, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
-- Matt D., Montreal

It's too early to know what the morale is. However, one thing is certain -- with manager Manny Acta on board, the Nationals will have a fresh start. Ask me this same question again during the All-Star break.

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I think the Nationals should make a run at Ronnie Belliard, because no one seems to be interested in the infielder. Why not give him a two-year deal? Belliard could be used in a utility role and if Cristian Guzman does not work out, Belliard would slip right in at second and Felipe Lopez could return to shortstop. What do you think?
-- Jarred T., Fredericksburg, Va.

Interesting, Jarred, but I find it hard to believe that Belliard would be willing to accept a utility role. Belliard is coming off a decent '06, and he helped the Cardinals win the World Series. I think he'll sign with a team that will allow him to play every day.

Is there any chance that Frank Robinson's uniform number will be retired by the Nationals? I believe that his service to the organization throughout the whole moving process and the role he played in creating excitement in the Washington, D.C., area deserve to be rewarded by being the first National with his number retired. I think Opening Day in the new stadium would be a fitting time to honor him.
-- Joe B., Washington

I asked team president Stan Kasten a couple of weeks ago if there were any plans to retire Robinson's number on May 20 -- the day the team plans to honor Robinson -- and the answer is no.

What you are suggesting, Joe, is not off the wall. The Mets retired Casey Stengal's number. His managerial record wasn't very good with the Mets, but Stengel created excitement during the team's early years.

As you can see, fans get emotional when it comes to baseball history. As a native Washingtonian and Senators fan, I view the current Nats as continuing the legacies of Walter Johnson, Sam Rice and Frank Howard. I can't relate to Expos history, but I realize there are many Expos fans now rooting for the Nats. Can't the webmaster find a creative way to satisfy both sets of fans on this site?
-- Jeff B., Silver Spring, Md.

There is a team history page that includes the franchise's time in Montreal as the Expos.

Where do you stand on the history of the Expos playing a role with the Nationals?
-- Brian K., Carle Place, N.Y.

I think the Expos' history should blend with Nationals' history. The Nationals came from Montreal and, as far as I'm concerned, for example, Alfonso Soriano broke Vladimir Guerrero's single-season home-run record in 2006.

Woody S.'s comments about the Nationals/Expos history caused a lot of commotion the past two weeks, and MLB.com will let him have the last word on the subject.

I certainly didn't mean to start any kind of stir with my comments about Expos history and its irrelevance to current Nationals fans. I merely noted that I have been uninterested in Twins and Rangers history after they left D.C., and I presumed Montreal fans would feel the same bitterness and switch their allegiance to the Blue Jays, like when most Washington fans turned to the Orioles.

I want our Washington baseball history back, with Clark Griffith, Johnson, Joe Cronin, Harmon Killebrew and Howard, which was the baseball history I grew up with in the D.C. area and that I still cherish. I never rooted for Andre Dawson or any of the other Expos players who left before they became the Nats. But I love the Nats and listen to every game down here in Orlando, Fla., where I live in exile and where I attend Spring Training games in nearby Viera, Fla. And I really enjoy Nationals broadcaster Charlie Slowes!
-- Woody S., Orlando, Fla.

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