Injury problems have plagues John Patterson the past couple of seasons but if the Nationals could catch lightening in a bottle and get a healthy and effective Patterson, it would be a bright spot on what’s looking to be a long season. Patterson had an outstanding season in 2005 and while that bright spot can be somewhat of a tease, it’s also something the Nats might be able to look forward too if Patterson can put those injuries behind him.
Like last year, he’ll be at the front of the rotation. Following him will be Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann, John Lannan and Matt Chico.
Still a free agent, Livan Hernandez made it known that he would like to return to the Nationals in order to be their opening day starter when the Nats open up their new ballpark. I like this idea, especially if we can get Livan on the cheap. He’s a workhorse and while he’s had a couple of rough seasons since leaving the Nationals, he’d still be our best starter bar none.
There’s always a secondary reason and that’s the fact that everyone needs starting pitching. If Hernandez can show something, we might be able to get a prospect or two for him at the trade deadline.
With less then two months to go until opening day, the Nationals are still trying to iron out a couple of final issues as Nationals Park is set to open. The team has announced that they’ll open the ballpark to fans at 3:30 on that first Sunday game despite the 8 pm start time. It’ll also be a nice way to determine whether there’s any logistical problems at the ballpark.
The other big issue has been parking. Stan Kasten said in the report that he’s had people buying lots left and right but it looks like some people will be forced to park at RFK, where they’ll be shuttled to the ballpark.
Still, as bad as the Nationals might be, the new ballpark is one reason to get excited. Then again, even with the money coming in from the new ballpark, Kasten has pointed to other low salary teams to get us used to the fact that ownership won’t be opening the wallets anytime soon.
The Nationals cut their arbritration eligible signings in half yesterday as they signed relief pitcher Jon Rauch to a one year, $3.2 million deal. Rauch has been very good the last two seasons and his his 88 games in 2007 led the league. In 2006, he pitched in 85 games and that was second in the National League. His strikeout rate was down a touch last year but his walk rate was down as well and his 1.099 WHIP and 3.61 ERA probably made him the best pitcher on the team last year.
That leaves just Felipe Lopez as arbitration eligible players who have yet to sign. Lopez will probably demand a sizeable amount as a power hitting middle infielder and you’d hope they’d lock him up to a longer term deal.
With Paul Lo Duca on the shelf, the Nationals picked up some insurance when they signd Johnny Estrada to a one year, $1.25 million deal. It’s the kind of deal you hate to make because it centers around an injury but having a guy like Estrada in your back pocket is never bad thing. Best case scenario is both Paul Lo Duca and Estrada have solid seasons and the Nationals have some trade bait come July.
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