Strasburg, Ramos could key Nationals’ improvement


Stephen Strasburg missed most of last year, but he’s back on the mound now. (Patrick Semansky/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

This just may be the summer that Washington area kids fall in love with professional baseball. Why? The hometown team, the Washington Nationals, should be very good. The team definitely will be fun to watch. The Nationals’ roster is packed with exciting, talented players. Let’s take a look.

Strength on the mound

Pitchers are important for any baseball team, and the Nats have plenty. For starters, Stephen Strasburg looks ready to be a big star after being sidelined most of last season with an arm injury. Jordan Zimmermann is not far behind Strasburg, and if lefty newcomer Gio Gonzalez can cut down on his walks, he might be the best of them all. So the Nats should have three top-flight starters.

But the real indication of the Nats’ pitching strength is their fourth and fifth starting pitchers. Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler are solid major-league hurlers who know how to win.

The bullpen is loaded, too, with strong-armed, late-inning pitchers such as Drew Storen and all-star Tyler Clippard. And don’t forget Henry Rodriguez. His fastball sometimes reaches 100 miles per hour.

Hit it out of the park

The big question is whether the Nats’ hitters can score enough runs to keep up with the Philadelphia Phillies and the other teams in the super-tough National League East Division. Shortstop Ian Desmond and second baseman Danny Espinosa, who will be batting first and second, need to get on base a lot. If they do, the Nats’ sluggers — Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Michael Morse, should be able to bring them home.


Slugger Bryce Harper is starting the season in the minor leagues but is likely to join the team during the season. (Julio Cortez/AP)

See what I mean? Look at all those good players. And I haven’t even mentioned Wilson Ramos. At 24 years old, Ramos may be ready to break out and be a standout catcher for years to come.

A summer star?

Oh, another thing: Washington fans are counting the days until hot-shot rookie Bryce Harper hits town. Harper, who is only 19 years old, will probably stay in the minor leagues for a few months learning to play center field. But it’s clear the Nats’ manager, Davey Johnson, can hardly wait to pencil Harper into the lineup.

If the Nats stay healthy, they have a real chance to make the playoffs. So fall in love and follow the Nats this season. Watch the games on TV, listen to them on radio, check out the box scores every morning in the paper, talk your mom and dad into taking you to a game or two. The great thing about baseball is there is a game just about every day.

Who knows, maybe the Nats will go all the way to the World Series.

Wouldn’t you love that?

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 17 sports books for kids, including eight books about baseball.


Wilson Ramos, 24, may be ready to become a standout catcher. (Jonathan Newton/WASHINGTON POST)

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