Nationals Notebook

Summer's Over, So It's Back to School

Former Terrapin Justin Maxwell, who hit .269 in 15 games for the Nats, will play in the Arizona Fall League.
Former Terrapin Justin Maxwell, who hit .269 in 15 games for the Nats, will play in the Arizona Fall League. "His season isn't over yet," GM Jim Bowden said. (By J. Pat Carter -- Associated Press)
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden will head to Viera, Fla., tomorrow morning to check in on the Nationals' instructional league, the first step in a busy offseason that began -- immediately -- with the conclusion of Sunday's season finale in Philadelphia. He will be accompanied by vice president of player development Bob Boone.

"I have to see what we've got," Bowden said.

The instructional league features several of the Nationals' top young prospects -- including pitchers Josh Smoker, Jordan Zimmermann, Corey Van Allen, Marco Estrada and Hassan Pe¿a, outfielders Mike Daniel and Michael Burgess and infielders Esmailyn Gonzalez and Stephen King -- playing a 30-game season.

"This is an important part of the development process for us," Boone said. "And it's important for the players. This is a serious step for a lot of them."

Bowden said Randy St. Claire, the major league pitching coach, will join him for a couple of days of evaluation in Viera this week. Boone is bringing his son, former major league infielder Bret, to help as well.

Bowden said he will deliver a speech to the players there.

"I'm going to point to John Lannan as an example of what can happen in our system," Bowden said, speaking of the 23-year-old left-hander who rose from Class A to the majors this season. "If you perform, we'll move you. It's that simple. We don't care how old you are or where you're supposed to be. We'll give these kids opportunities."

Maxwell Heads West

The other major developmental avenue in the offseason for the Nationals will be the Arizona Fall League, which begins play Oct. 9. Outfielder Justin Maxwell, the team's minor league player of the year, probably has the most to gain by a strong performance there.

"His season isn't over yet," Bowden said.

Maxwell, an Olney native who will turn 24 in November, hit .269 with two homers and five RBI in 15 September games for the Nationals. Bowden was impressed -- particularly with two hits off Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels.

"He was able to study Hamels on Friday night, knew he was going to throw him a change-up, and hit two change-up for base hits," Bowden said. "That's how intelligent he is. He knew what to expect at the plate."

Bowden said Maxwell "absolutely" will be at spring training with a chance to compete for a major league spot in 2008. He leaves for Peoria, Ariz., later this week, and will be joined there by infielder-outfielder Kory Casto -- who hit .246 for Class AAA Columbus after an early-season appearance with the Nationals -- as well as pitchers Adam Carr, Garrett Mock, Alexis Morales and Zechry Zinicola.

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