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12/21/09 2:55 PM EST

Inbox: How much will Pudge play in '10?

Beat reporter Bill Ladson answers Nationals fans' questions

How much playing time do you think Ivan Rodriguez will get? I think it would be a waste if he gets only the amount of playing time Wil Nieves had last year. Pudge can still provide some serious offense besides his defensive skills.
-- Alex C., Montreal

After talking to Jesus Flores last week, there is no doubt my mind that Ivan Rodriguez will play every day to start the season. Flores is still recovering from right shoulder surgery and will start throwing sometime in February. I don't see the Nationals rushing Flores to be ready for Opening Day.

How much interest are the Nationals showing in Aroldis Chapman? It looks like his upside could be as high as Stephen Strasburg's and, if signed, would give the club an outstanding top of the rotation for years to come.
--- Jeff O., Victoria, Texas

I have to believe the Nationals are serious. Why else would general manager Mike Rizzo go to Houston to watch Chapman work out? Rizzo seems high on the Cuban left-hander. Here's what he said about the left-hander in an MLB.com chat:

"Aroldis is an extremely talented, athletic left-handed pitcher with a ceiling as high as any current amateur pitcher in the world. He has great arm strength and velocity on his fastball and is just in his infancy as a frontline Major League prospect."

The question is, Will Washington break the bank to get him? I don't know.

Would Felipe Lopez be a good fit at second base for the Nats?
-- Sean B., Washington

Lopez has played well since he left the Nationals, but I don't see him coming back because he left the team on bad terms. The team felt he wasn't giving 100 percent on the field.

What happened to all the John Smoltz buzz? It seems like ages ago that we've heard anything about the Nats trying to acquire a starting pitcher. If you were in Rizzo's shoes, which free-agent pitchers would you sign?
-- Scott W., Onley, Va.

The Smoltz buzz hasn't gone away. The Nationals still have interest in him, but I don't see them breaking the bank for him. Also, I don't think Washington is Smoltz's first choice. Reportedly, he wants to play for a playoff contender. The Nats tried getting Smoltz late last season, but he wanted to play on a winning club.

Aside from Jason Marquis, whom the Nats are close to signing, If I were in Rizzo's shoes, I would try to convince Jon Garland to come on board. He is still young and could give the Nationals a lot of innings. Talking to Willie Harris convinced me that Garland is the right guy to help young pitchers like John Lannan and Garrett Mock.

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What are the Nationals' options if Cristian Guzman can`t play second base?
-- Ryan L., Dunn, N.C.

They could always use Harris and Alberto Gonzalez at second base. I stand by what I said weeks ago: I still find it hard to believe that Guzman will play second base. I still think Orlando Hudson has a chance to come to Washington. We'll see.

What are the chances of bringing Vladimir Guerrero back into the organization?
-- Kelvin A., Rockville, Md.

Less than 10 percent. Vladdy is not the player I saw when he was in Montreal. He is not as fast and is shaky on defense. He is a designated hitter now and the Nationals have enough of those type of players.

What's the status of Chris Marrero? Can we expect him in the big leagues anytime soon?
-- Colin W., Germantown, Md.

I believe he has a Major League bat, but his defense may keep him from making the big leagues soon. His glove has always been a problem in the outfield and at first base. Ask me this question again in Spring Training and I'll find out if Marrero has improved with the glove.

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