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02/19/07 8:10 PM ET

Mailbag: Who will start at first base?

Nationals beat reporter Bill Ladson answers fans' questions

Spring Training has started for the Nationals, and baseball fans want to know about them and there chances of getting better in the National League East.

Here are some answers to your questions.

If Nick Johnson doesn't return until June, who will be the starting first baseman -- Larry Broadway, Travis Lee, Tony Batista or Dmitri Young?
--Kevin W., Chicago

I think Larry Broadway will be the starting first baseman. It's time to give him a chance, and I think he has the swing to become a successful big-league hitter. If Broadway doesn't do well, Lee and Young will battle it out for the starting position.

What are your thoughts on Young and Tony Batista? Do you think they could make the team? I thought the Nats were looking for young players instead of veterans.
-- Alex C., Montreal

The Nationals are looking for young talented players, and Young and Batista could be traded later in the season for those types of players.

I thought Young was a great pickup. I think he could be a great asset off the bench. The Batista signing baffles me. I understand the reasons for signing him, but he seems like a long shot to make the big club because Ryan Zimmerman is an ironman at third base. Batista can play short and second base, but he hasn't played there in several years.

I'm worried about Johnson. He, not Alfonso Soriano, was the Nationals' best hitter last year. They need him in the lineup. Is his injury career-ending?
-- Steve W., Ellicott City, Md.

I don't think Johnson's injury -- a fractured right femur (upper leg bone) -- is career-threatening. He will be back sometime this season. As far as Johnson's value on the team, there is no question the Nationals are going to miss his patience at the plate. Hopefully, players such as Felipe Lopez, Cristian Guzman and Austin Kearns can pick up the slack.

Why don't you mention catcher Brandon Harper as being a potential bench player? It seems to me that his .293 batting average and good, solid defense should at least earn him a look.
-- K. Dowell, Washington, D.C.

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The Nationals are going to take look at Harper, but for now they seem set on Jesus Flores, who was a Rule 5 Draft pick. It's doubtful they will send Flores back to the Mets because Washington believes he will be a future star behind the plate.

I have been following the Nationals since they were the Expos and I have never seen a situation where the team is looking for four starting pitchers. You are lucky if you can find one from your prospects or second-tier free agents, but four? Based on this, what are the odds that they find four reliable starters?
-- Emmanuel, Montreal

I wouldn't put anything past manager Manny Acta. I think they will find a way to get a good rotation together. What I find impressive about Acta is that he knows the history of almost every one of his pitchers in camp.

Whatever happened to right-hander Clint Everts?
-- Dave F., Seaford, Del.

Everts, who was the Expos' first pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2004. He returned in late 2005 and has been consistent on the mound ever since. He is now in the Nationals' accelerated program.

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