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04/28/08 1:24 PM ET

Mailbag: Is Lannan the real deal?

Beat reporter Bill Ladson answers Nationals fans' questions

Is John Lannan the real deal?
-- Steve M., New York, N.Y.

There is no question that Lannan is the real deal. He is, by far, the best pitcher on the team and should have been on the Opening Day roster.

How long can the Nationals keep Austin Kearns in the lineup? I'm tired of management saying how hard he's working and great he is. That is nice, but the bottom line is, he has not produced. In 1 1/2 seasons, I can't remember him getting a big hit. His production definitely doesn't warrant batting fifth or sixth in the order.
-- Jim R., Fairfax, Va.

You are asking an excellent question and it's baffling he hasn't been benched the way Felipe Lopez and Ryan Church have been in the past. However, Kearns will not be out of the lineup anytime soon. General manager Jim Bowden and manager Manny Acta are loyal to him. Bowden, especially, believes Kearns will be a superstar one day.

It terms of not getting big hits, Kearns had his share during the second half of last season. I recall him hitting big home runs against the Mets.

The last few years, RFK's dimensions were blamed for the Nationals' lack of hitting. What's the excuse this year?
-- Pat R., Oakton, Va.

There are no excuses this time. Most of the players are not hitting the ball hard this year. I do believe they miss Dmitri Young. I believe he could provide an occasional spark if given a chance to start in left field. In all my years in Washington, Young is the only player who makes a difference just by his presence alone.

I'm noticing that some of the quotes of recently hit-hard pitchers (Matt Chico, Jason Bergmann, etc.) such as, "I lost confidence in my breaking ball" or, "I just didn't have it out there." Would you agree that catcher Brian Schneider is missed as a steady hand and an encouraging voice?
-- Michael L., Washington

That's a fair question. The pitching staff may miss Schneider. I will never deny that Schneider was an excellent catcher and the pitchers loved him. But the reason he is not here is because he regressed as a hitter during his final two years with the Nationals.

From what I've seen thus far, Wil Nieves is a difference maker behind the plate and his work with Lannan is proof. I also think it's too early to judge Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada because they have been injured. Ask me this question again at the All-Star break.

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The Nats are playing losing baseball, yet Acta seems so patient. How does he stay so composed when sometimes there is obviously poor defense and offense, along with some careless mistakes?
-- Kristen L., Rockville, Md.

Acta has always been a patient man and doesn't believe in yelling and screaming at people. He is that way with his two daughters. In his opinion, yelling and screaming doesn't accomplish a thing.

If Church had made the same mistakes as Lastings Milledge, he would have been demoted or benched. What do you think?
-- Bob M., Alexandria, Va.

There were times when I thought Church was treated unfairly last year, but don't forget that Milledge was benched for a game because he was late for work.

What has Frank Robinson been up to lately?
-- Brian K., Carle Place, N.Y.

The beat writers saw him at Shea Stadium when the Nationals played the Mets and I'm happy to report that he is doing well. He now works in the Commissioner's Office.

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