Things are looking up for the Washington Nationals

By Fred Bowen
Thursday, April 1, 2010; C10

The Washington Nationals are going to win the World Series in 2010.

April Fool!

The Washington Nationals are going to have a winning season in 2010.

Sorry, still April Fool.

The Washington Nationals are going to win 70 or more games this season. Okay, the Nationals may be able to do that.

Last season, the Nationals had the worst record in major league baseball: 59 wins and 103 losses (59-103). So 70 wins would be a big improvement. There are reasons to hope the Nats should be better this year.

Pitching: The Nats signed veteran pitcher Jason Marquis in December. Marquis is not a Hall of Fame hurler. But he is a solid starter who has won 11 or more games each of the past six seasons. With Marquis and lefty John Lannan, the Nats have at least two starting pitchers who will give them a chance to win.

New faces: The Nats also signed catcher Iván "Pudge" Rodríguez. Rodríguez is 38 years old, so he is not the same player who smashed 35 home runs and won the American League most valuable player (MVP) award for the Texas Rangers in 1999. But Rodríguez should give the Nats steady play behind the plate. During spring training the Nats named Ian Desmond as their new shortstop, replacing Cristian Guzmán. Desmond is an exciting 24-year-old who batted .280 when he played for the Nats last September. Desmond should hit for more power and get to more groundballs at shortstop than the older Guzmán. He'll be fun to watch.

New manager: Last year, the Nats fired Manager Manny Acta after the team stumbled to a 26-61 start and named Jim Riggleman as their leader. The Nats played better under Riggleman, who graduated from Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, winning 33 games and losing 42. Do the math. If the Nats can keep that up for an entire season they will win more than 70 games.

Reinforcements: A good bit of the excitement at Nationals Park involves a player who will arrive later in the year. Stephen Strasburg, whose fastball reaches speeds of 100 miles per hour, is supposed to be the best pitching prospect to come into the majors in years. Strasburg will start the season in the minor leagues but should join the big team during the summer. Relief pitcher Drew Storen is another young fireballer who may be coming out of the Nats bullpen in a couple of months. Finally, pitcher Chien-Ming Wang is recovering from shoulder surgery. But the former New York Yankees star may be ready to pitch by late May. If he is healthy, Wang will help. He won 19 games for the Yankees in 2006 and again in 2007.

So there are lots of reasons the Nationals will be better this season. No fooling.

Fred Bowen is the author of 14 books for kids, including his first picture book, "No Easy Way: The Story of Ted Williams and the Last .400 Season."

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