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06/23/08 1:30 PM ET

Mailbag: Will Pena come around?

Beat reporter Bill Ladson answers Nationals fans' questions

Entering Monday's action, the Nationals are 30-47, and fans want to know what the team can do to get better. Here are some answers to some of their questions.

What's your take on Wily Mo Pena?
-- Scott C., Washington, D.C.

I'm shocked by his performance. I thought this would be the year Pena would reach his potential. His swing is totally different. It looks like he is trying to take the ball to right field at all costs. Plus, the speed Pena displayed last year has been non-existent.

If Pena doesn't improve, I expect Elijah Dukes to be the everyday left fielder when Austin Kearns is activated from the disabled list.

I have to ask whether it's time to re-evaluate Lenny Harris as a Major League hitting coach. The offense is terrible.
-- Tim H., Virginia Beach, Va.

You are one of many who are asking this question. The truth is, most of the position players are not responding to his teachings. Harris will tell you that most of the players are still learning in the big leagues. I'm sure the team is evaluating what Harris is doing.

When Chad Cordero is activated from the disabled list, will he be the closer?
-- Zak L., Cincinnati

Good question. I think Jon Rauch will remain the closer and Cordero will have to earn the spot back. Cordero must show that his fastball is back to where it used to be. During his best days, Cordero's fastball was clocked between 89-91 mph.

Is there any chance we could see Ken Griffey Jr. in a Nats uniform next season?
-- Jeff, D. Alexandria, Va.

I would be shocked if Griffey is in a Nationals uniform. He is past his prime. It's time to go young now.

How much of the Nats' most recent swoon can be attributed to the absence of Ryan Zimmerman and Nick Johnson?
-- Terry D., Gettysburg, Pa.

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A lot. No one else on this team can play third base better than Zimmerman, and no one is replacing his bat, either. Despite his low batting average, Johnson had a high on-base percentage. With the exception of Dukes, nobody has Johnson's patience.

Jon A., of Stony Brook, N.Y., hit the mark with his e-mail. You are nothing more than a shill for the organization. Wake up and smell the coffee. Jim Bowden is a lousy general manager. Evaluate how much of the team was in place before he became the GM, and then honestly tell me that he is a good GM. Of course, you'll never publish this e-mail. Stop being a shill and call it correctly.
-- Mitchell W., Springfield Va.

You are entitled to your opinion, but if you want to talk to Bowden, Manny Acta, Kearns, Brian Schneider and Ryan Church, I think they will tell you that I'm not a shill for the team. No one is more critical of Kearns than I am.

As far as Bowden is concerned, he is doing a great job with the Minor League system. When I covered the team in Montreal, there was nothing to write about the Minor Leagues except for Shawn Hill, Scott Hodges -- before he became seriously ill -- and Terrmel Sledge. There is plenty to write about now.

As far as the Major League side goes, I want to see the Lerner group give Bowden a $90-$100 million payroll to work with before I pass judgment. With the low payroll the team has now, Bowden has to find lightning in a bottle most of the time, instead of star-studded free agents.

Is John Lannan the real deal? Is he a future ace?
-- Joe, New York

With 11 quality starts, Lannan is the real deal. It's too bad he doesn't have the wins to show for it. As for being a future ace, I think it's a possibility. Don't forget Hill is in the mix if he stays healthy. Lannan and Hill are great building blocks for the future.

How much longer do the Nats wait for Felipe Lopez to realize his potential? It seems like he always loses focus, doesn't run out ground balls, and hits around .250.
-- Trey O., Washington, D.C.

The Nationals will not be waiting long. I expect them to trade Lopez before the trade deadline. If he is not traded by then, Lopez will not be re-signed. There is no question that Lopez has been a disappointment the last two years.

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