Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I Suggest The Absence Of A Quorum

We knew that injury was going to play a role in who headed north, especially given the track record of some of these players!

Vinny Castilla will be ramping up efforts to get back on the field after hyper-extending his left knee a week or so ago.

Jim Bowden has indicated that if it’s not better, the Señor Statesman could begin the year on the disabled list. If that happens, Tony Blanco definitely makes the club, and it gives Carlos Baerga a chance to make it as well. Incidentally, Frank Robinson has said that Jamey Carroll will get the first crack at the starting job, should our mile-high friend stay gimpy.

One catch with keeping Baerga around is that he’s currently on a minor-league contract, meaning he’s not on the 40-man roster. The Nationals only have 38 currently (Francis Beltran is on the 60-day DL, so he doesn’t count against the total), so that won’t represent a problem. But, if they make trades, the roster limits may come into play. As a major league veteran, Baerga would reserve the right to refuse to be assigned to the minors. Hopefully, he’d go willingly, just like our good friend Jeffrey Hammonds, and be an option should disaster strike.

The other important roster decision involves Tony Armas’ groin. He’s tweaked it enough, that they’re shutting him down for a few weeks and putting him on the 15-day DL. Rest helps a weary groin!

As a result, one more of the pitchers gets to hang around, and one of the lucky losers gets a chance to start once or twice, maybe.

Livan, Loaiza, Ohka, Day are locks to start the opening four games, but not in that order, says St. Barry.

Chad Cordero, Luis Ayala, Antonio Osuna, Joey Eischen and TJ Tucker are probably locks as well -- the last two primarily because they can’t be sent to the minors without risk of losing them.

Jon Patterson, who’s also out of options, makes it and slides into the not-really-needed fifth starters spot. He might pick up a start or two before Armas is back.

That leaves one spot. The contenders? Joe Horgan, Gary Majewski, and Jon Rauch. They all have options, so the Nationals aren’t at risk of losing one. Majewski’s just a pedestrian reliever -- nothing to get too excited over. He’ll enjoy New Orleans. Ideally, they’d stick with Rauch, especially given his performance last year, but he won’t get any starts up here. Down in Louisiana, he’ll be a contender for PCL pitcher of the year. I’d put my money on Joe Horgan, primarily for one reason: he’s left-handed.

Frank Robinson has mentioned the need for a second lefty many times this spring. He contends that teams can stack their lineups with lefties because the Nats don’t have any lefty starters. Although I think that bullpen specialization is the bane of baseball, strategically this might make sense, especially because Horgan was so effective last year.

But, we’ll see what happens when he’s facing Carlos Delgado with two on in the 7th inning of a tie game!

When Armas is ready to come off the DL, Horgan will probably escape the axe too, because the team will be ready to jump up to 12 pitchers. I wish they wouldn’t, but that’s the way they play the game now. Oh well. Meanwhile, Rauch will be rooting for another injury or two, waiting to reunite Los Dos Juans.

Other roster notes…

Ian Desmond will be enjoying A-Savannah this summer, at least for the start.

The Nats acquired Carlos Torres from the Sox as the PTBNL for Alejandro Machado. Carlos hit 253/ .368/ .466 in the Gulf Coast League last year. Not great, not horrible. Sadly, he’s probably already one of our top prospects!


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