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Wednesday, April 16, at 2 p.m. ET

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Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 16, 2008; 2:00 PM

Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga was online Wednesday, April 16 at 1 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the Washington Nationals.

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A transcript follows.

Svrluga covers the Nationals beat for The Post and writes the Nationals Journal blog for washingtonpost.com. He's also the author of "National Pastime: Sports, Politics, and the Return of Baseball to Washington, D.C."

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Barry Svrluga: Hello, folks, from sunny Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens, New York City, New York, USA. Citi Field tantalizes us beyond the left and center field walls here. Looks like it's going to be a nice yard. Now, if they could just do something about all those auto body shops nearby.

Many topcis to discuss today. Not many of them positive, I suppose. Thanks for stopping by. Happy to answer whatever's on your mind. Let's go.

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Calvert Street: In your expert opinion, what percentage chance would you put on Jesus Flores being brought up to the majors as the starting catcher this year? It seems that the chances look better and better with each AB from Estrada and Lo Duca.

Barry Svrluga: I understand two things about this situation: The fans' desire to have Flores play in the majors, and the Nationals' desire to have him develop in the minors.

Let's keep something in mind about Flores. Though he went 4 for 11 with a homer in his brief stint here this year -- making him among the most productive Nationals -- he hit .244 with a .310 OBP and .361 slugging percentage in 2007, when he had to be in the majors because he was a Rule 5 pick.

Think of the catching situation in two parts. This season, Lu Duca and Estrada hold down the fort. But they're both on one-year contracts, and you likely won't have to worry about them at this time in 2009. If Flores's season at Class AAA Columbus goes as expected, he'll take over full-time next season.

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The Constituency: Barry,

Do you know if The Pope will be doing any exorcising while at the Nationals Park? There's just one thing that I'd like this team to lose, and that's the demons that demean them ... so they can play up to their full potential.

Barry Svrluga: Anyone have the pope's e-mail? I was thinking I'd hit him on his Blackberry while he was dressing in Manny Acta's office so he could perform such an exorcism.

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Burke, Va.: What do we have to do to get a real hitting coach?

Does he emphasize working with players on mechanics, or emphasizing their approach at the plate? It seems like everyone's getting worse with respect to both of those.

Do you think he has a firm graps on the job? If he were to go, would we get another Reds retread? Do you have Chris Sabo's contact info?

Barry Svrluga: Sabo, I believe, can be reached at chris@spudsmckenzie.com.

This is an interesting question, and I've dealt with it from time-to-time since Lenny Harris took over for Mitchell Page last May. Page would almost certainly still be the hitting coach if he hadn't run into his share of personal problems. He's now out of baseball.

Harris was thrust into this position. He had never served at a hitting coach at any level, and he had to learn on the fly. His approach is much more mental than physical. He wants guys to stay relaxed and keep things simple. Page was much more technical, spending hours in the cage. Last year, when Harris took over, the Nationals were actually more productive. But I don't think there's a direct correlation between the two. Harris will be under some scrutiny until -- and if -- the Nationals' hitters turn it around.

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Whither Will, IE: At some point Dukes and Dmitri will be back. That has to spell the end of Willie Harris, right?

Barry Svrluga: I think the guy who's in the most danger right now is Rob Mackowiak. He is 0 for 10 and is not giving them quality at-bats off the bench. He is, unfortunately, guaranteed $1.5 million. Ouch.

Keep in mind what's said around here a lot, though: A lot can happen between now and when those guys come back.

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Needham, Mass.: Will Jim Bowden continue to be patient with the current play of the Nationals?

Barry Svrluga: Jim Bowden is not, by nature, a patient man. We already saw an example of that. Wily Mo Pena was supposed to play four or five games at Class AAA Columbus on his rehabilitation assignment. But after a 10-2 loss to the Braves on Saturday, Bowden had seen enough listless play and yanked Pena up for Sunday's game against the Braves. He doesn't have his timing yet, and it almost killed the Nationals that day because WMP went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and a grounded-into-double play, not to mention dropping a fly ball.

That said, Bowden's got this situation in his long view, too. He believes that this team could win more than it loses, and so he's disappointed. But he also knows that getting into contention is a year or so away.

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Capitol Hill: I'm not panicking; I know the Nats won't be this bad all season. But it does make me wonder; how many seasons until they're actually good?

Barry Svrluga: This is part of a broader discussion, but remember, they're trying to collect pieces that will be part of a potential winner in years to come. They believe they have such parts in Zimmerman (despite a really slow start), Milledge, Flores, perhaps Dukes or Pena, Detwiler, Lannan, perhaps a Balester or a Chico, and Marrero.

So then it depends on how quickly they can fill in the other spots, particularly the middle infield. If they are truly committed to increasing payroll in the next two offseasons, then they can fill those holes quickly. If not, well, then, there'll be some questions to answer.

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Washington, DC:

I was out of the country for about 10 days. When I left, the Nats were 3-0. Now they are 3-10. What the &@-%- happened?!

Barry Svrluga: Ah, thank goodness. We finally figured it out.

You left the country. Welcome back. Problem solved.

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Vatican: I'm trying to understand American Baseball. When the bases were loaded with Nationals last night and Zimmerman popped up, the ump called the infield fly rule. At the instant the ump called it, was Zimmerman out? Could the runners then advance?

Barry Svrluga: Yes. The batter is out, and the runners advance at their own risk.

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Washington, D.C.: Which is more troubling -- the Nats leaving 19 on in a 6-0 loss, or the Mets leaving 18 on in a 6-0 win?

Barry Svrluga: Both would be tremendously troubling. But last night, the Nationals left nine, the Mets left 10. Not sure where your numbers came from.

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Navy Yard: Forgive me if I missed something, but whatever happened to the story that is Nick Johnson's hair?? Weren't we supposed to get a picture of the lightning bolt?

Barry Svrluga: My goodness I forgot. Nick indeed e-mailed me a photo of the hair, and I have it somewhere. I'll have to figure out how to paste it into Nationals Journal.

Unfortunately, it's growing back to normal now.

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Washington, D.C.: Here we go again: Poor attendance and last place in the NL East. What are the bright spots for the Nats?

Barry Svrluga: Someone looking for the sunny side. Let's see.

I'd say the play of Lastings Milledge -- at least at the plate -- has been good. I think he's made some curious decisions on the basepaths and he had that horrific lazy play in the outfield against the Braves on Saturday. But the kid can hit. He's impressive. I think his baseball smarts will probably improve, too.

Cristian Guzman is hitting .333. Let me repeat: Cristian Guzman is hitting .333. No, he's not walking. But particularly from the right side, the guy is driving the ball.

We'll get another glimpse tonight at Matt Chico, but his new mechanics make him far more intriguing.

Nick Johnson's OBP is a very Johnsonian .420.

And Saul Rivera has been really really good.

That would be about it.

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Wilmington, N.C.: We are still waiting on Shawn Hill. Is he ever going to have his 26th Major League game in 4 years or is it about time we John Patterson him? He isn't winning us much on the DL.

Barry Svrluga: Hill is tentatively scheduled to start on Saturday in Florida. I'm willing to give him a chance to pitch this year. He really is effective almost every time he goes out there. He just hasn't been out there enough.

I do not believe the club is close to pulling a John Patterson on him. Remember, Patterson was released only after he said he was healthy, but the results -- velocity, etc. -- weren't there. He's still pitching in the Rangers' extended spring training program, still trying to build arm strength.

I understand being a bit frustrated with Hill. But let's talk after Saturday's game and see where we are.

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Sec 314: Now that Nick Johnson is back and hitting well (and making contact most of the time), has any thought been given to moving him up to the No. 3 spot in the order? Even when Zimm is not slumping, he doesn't make contact or draw walks the way NJ does.

Barry Svrluga: I was talking about this with Mark Zuckerman of The Washington Times last night, and lineup changes in general are worth bouncing off Manny Acta.

Moving Johnson up is certainly intriguing, because with Guzman and Milledge getting on base at a reasonable rate, it'd put the Nationals' most polished hitter behind them, whether to drive them in or draw walks to bring up Zimmerman.

But let me anticipate Acta's potential answer here. Johnson is the lineup's only true left-handed hitter. Hitting him fourth between two right-handed hitters -- Zimmerman and Kearns (or, perhaps, Pena if Kearns is moved down) -- offers some balance. If you move Johnson up, then you'd go Zimmerman, Kearns, Pena, Lo Duca, Belliard -- right-handed hitters all.

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Washington, D.C.: Barry, can you enlighten us on Lo Duca? How well is he communicating with the pitchers, starting and relief? Is it possible to tell to what extent the Nats' pitching is influenced by him, for better or worse? How well is he calling games? How is he getting along with the team in general? Thanks.

Barry Svrluga: Game calling, to me, is so nuanced that I have a tough time analyzing it. I've always tried to rely on others -- Frank Robinson, Randy St. Claire, Bob Boone, etc. -- who might help keep me better informed. I tried to talk to the entire pitching staff about Schneider's abilities in this regard, both when he was here and after he left. They seem to believe he was good at this.

But let's break it down this way. The Nationals have a pitching plan they go over before every series and before every game with the starter. The catcher is involved in these meetings -- heavily.

The most striking thing in this area came on Saturday, when John Lannan watched lots of video with St. Claire after his poor outing. He said afterward that he got away from the pitching plan, and he was upset about that. I asked, "Hey, aren't there two people involved in calling the game -- you and the catcher." Lannan is young and certainly didn't want to chastise a 36-year-old veteran. But I'll ask more about this.

Not sure Lo Duca will be back behind the plate tonight anyway, what with his bruised hand.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What happened to the minors notebook? How are our prospects doing?

Barry Svrluga: Should have been a minors notebook in today's $.35/.$50-edition. Featured Mike O'Connor, who is off to a fine start for Class AAA Columbus (16 strikeouts in 16 innings).

I'll see about making sure those things get online.

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Minneapolis: Forgive me if this has been addressed already. Between MLB Extra Innings and the audio feeds, I've yet to hear anyone explain why Nick Johnson isn't wearing the high socks this year. Bad karma?

Barry Svrluga: I'll ask. That's a good point.

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Section 409: Plenty of good seats still available! Come on down! Only $33 to sit in the second level by the foul pole, only $47 to sit in the red seats in left-center!

Any talk from the front office about slashing prices or offering special deals so the outfield seats aren't so barren?

Barry Svrluga: The most striking section of empty seats is probably beyond the Nationals' bullpen in right, which must be over-priced. Boswell wrote a column about pricing before the park opened, and Stan Kasten said something to the effect of, "Talk to me in a year," when the club would have a better idea of what seats moved and what didn't.

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Nats Fan in K.C.: Barry - I heard Boz talking on the radio about how attendance is up the usual 35-40 percent that you would expect with a new ball park. So... is the attendance a doom-and-gloom story or a more positive one?

Barry Svrluga: I think it's a wait-and-see story myself, but one with many check-ins -- like the one we did the other day.

What we know: New ballparks themselves aren't enough to draw three million fans. The product must be good. As Mark Lerner said in my story the other day, "We need to field the right team." He believes they eventually will.

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Washington, D.C.: Please, please, please tell me the Nationals front office is very unhappy with Austin Kearns to the point where they are looking to put a healthy Elijah Dukes or a Justin Maxwell or a hologram of Ryan Church out in RF. Yeah he hustles, but that's the only thing he's good at. He can't hit with runners in scoring position. He has holes in his swing.

I, along with 99 percent of the Nats fan base, am tired of hearing Bob Carpenter, Jim Bowden and every other Nationals employee state "we can't wait for the day when Kearns breaks out" or "if you're an opposing manager, you don't want Kearns up with bases loaded." His break out is not going to happen and he won't come through in the clutch.

Let's say goodbye to AK. Thanks Barry.

Barry Svrluga: This is more than a reasonable point. I remember talking to Barry Larkin -- I believe it was last spring -- about Kearns, with whome he played in Cincinnati. Larkin's point was exactly that: Let's not heap expectations on a guy that has enough major league at-bats that we know who he is.

Do I think Kearns is a .300 hitter who will hit 30-35 homers? I do not. His record doesn't show that. Do I think he's a .217 hitter who simply can't drive in runs? I do not. His record doesn't show that, either.

Kearns is in a funk right now, no question. The inability of he and Zimmerman to drive in runs is really hurting the offense.

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Capitol Hill, DC: Barry,

All things remaining equal, what do you forsee being the Nats' lineup in 3 years? 5 years?

Barry Svrluga: All things remaining equal? Not sure what that means. But I'll try to answer at least the three-year part, which would mean the 2011 season.

C -- Jesus Flores

1B -- Chris Marrero

2B -- Person Not in Organization

SS -- Person Not in Organization

3B -- Ryan Zimmerman

LF -- Michael Burgess

CF -- Lastings Milledge (though he could move to a corner spot)

RF -- Person Not in Organization

SP -- Ross Detwiler

SP -- Collin Balester

SP -- 3 Guys Not in Organization

Closer -- Person Not in Organization

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Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Since Austin Kearns only does one thing well (walking) and Cristian Guzman is leading the team in slugging, why not switch their spots? Kearns sure does a mean Wilkerson impersonation at the plate.

Barry Svrluga: Kearns as Wilkerson. I kinda like that. They're both from Kentucky.

I'll roll out that Guzman/Kearns flip-flop for Acta. Then I'll wait for the laughter to subside, and we'll move on.

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Pocatello, Idaho: Barry,

Lastings Milledge looks like a solid offensive player, but his defense seems adventurous to say the least.

Based on an admittedly small sample size, would you assess his problem(s) in center as mechanical or mental? Do you feel that these problem(s) will work themselves out as he matures as a player?

Barry Svrluga: That's an excellent question. When the Nationals traded for Milledge, I called a scout who believed Milledge could play center. But I had many other people say they doubted it. In a way -- and I'm not trying to scare anybody here -- he kind of moves like Preston Wilson out there. Remember how Wilson's head bobbed up and down when he ran in the outfield? That's kind of what Milledge does. It's hard to track the ball that way.

The best center fielders/outfielders run smoothly, keeping their heads still, so they can see the ball more clearly. Think Torii Hunter or Ken Griffey Jr. I'm not sure Milledge can fundamentally change the way he runs.

With Kearns off to something of a shaky defensive start in right, too, and Pena a sub-par defender in left, the Nationals' outfield is a bit porous at the moment.

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Metro Center: You left Chad off the roster of the future. That's just wrong!

Barry Svrluga: Oh, that must have been a mistake.

Wait. No it wasn't. We're talking three years from now. You know how many current Nationals were on the 2005 roster? That would be Cordero, Ayala, Rauch, Zimmerman (at the end), Nick Johnson and Guzman. That's a pretty good turnover.

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French Lick, In.: On your soon to be award winning blog, you said that FLop "looked lost."

That's a bit of a loaded term and one that's open for interpretation. What did you mean by it?

If Belliard continues to slump, do you think he could get a shot at second?

Barry Svrluga: Oh, I think Lopez could definitely get some at-bats at second -- or even again in left, or to spell Guzman at short.

When I said he looked lost, I just meant the quality of his at-bats are not very good. It looks like he's trying to feel his way through. He's used to getting four at-bats a day, and if he's in a slump, he could work through it knowing he would get lots of opportunities. Now, each at-bat is magnified because he doesn't know when the next one will come.

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from the $10 seats: Hello Barry; Ryan Zimmerman is now 1 for 17 with runners in scoring position and he's suppose to be the face of this team. Don't you think this face needs some plastic surgery?

Barry Svrluga: Nah, I think he'll be all right. Keep this in mind: Through April 16, 2006 -- Zimmerman's rookie season -- he was hitting .204 with one homer and six RBI. He ended up at .287 with 110 RBI that year.

We're quick to get on him because he's the face of the franchise, the most important hitter. But perhaps his approach is right: "It's a long season."

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Re: Lineup suggestions to Acta: Don't you mean laughter and an "Are you serious?!" Has Acta's demeanor toward media evolved since he first came on board as manager, or has he remained pretty even-keeled and in step with his original starting demeanor?

Barry Svrluga: He's very even-keeled. He is, though, also very aware of the MASN television camera. I was talking to him about it yesterday. He's worried about how he comes across on TV sometimes. I'd like MASN to just ask its questions and then shut down the TV. Sometimes, Acta comes across as snapping when he's not.

But this much is clear: He reads almost everything that's written about the team, and is aware of how he and the club are perceived. It's important to him.

(Hi, Manny!)

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Hmmm...:"You know how many current Nationals were on the 2005 roster? That would be Cordero, Ayala, Rauch, Zimmerman (at the end), Nick Johnson and Guzman."

Wow, you just named all the good Nats.

Barry Svrluga: Funny how that works. Perhaps some of the good players will still be here in 2011.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm looking at all the hyped pitching prospects in the Nats pipeline: Balester, Clippard, Detwiler, Hinckley, Lannan, O'Connor, McGeary, Mock, Smoker. What is the typical percentage of hyped prospects who pan out in the end, and which of these ones do you think are most likely to emerge as front-line (or at least legitimate) Major League starters?

Thanks! I love the chats!

Barry Svrluga: Funny you asked that while I'm here at Shea Stadium, where the current Mets rotation of Bill Pulsipher, Paul Wilson and Jason Isringhausen all came up together and developed into complete studs ...

... wait. That's not how it worked.

Here's the thing about having a deep farm system. The Nationals, in the past, were hoping that the one decent prospect they had would come through. The reality is you have to have five or eight prospects that you're excited about to get one that truly comes through as a star/above-average major leaguer.

The Nats took those three lefties -- Detwiler, Smoker and McGeary -- in last year's draft. I think people in the organization would be shocked if all three were stud members of the team's rotation in five years. One? They certainly would expect that. Two would be a bonus. But all three is all but unheard of.

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Washington, D.C.: Barry,

I'm interested in your perspective on the start of this year relative to last years 9-25 start. Are we seeing the same thing? A team that will start slow and warm up enough to play .500 ball thereafter, ultimately ending up several games under .500 at the end of the season?

Barry Svrluga: This is a good perspective. The 9-25 start last year didn't feature a nine-game losing streak (although they did lose eight in a row). But it was simply dreadful. They were getting beat in the first inning every night, and there simply was no hope.

This start has featured a few really bad games, most notably the 10-2 loss to the Braves on Saturday. But I think, in general, there's more hope. The starting pitching is a bit better. Don't forget that Odalis Perez pitched decently last night. Chico went eight innings last time. Hill might actually pitch. Bergmann, who's stuff is as good as most in the rotation, could fix himself.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to paint a rosy picture. But man, last year's start was just abominable.

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Minneapolis: How do I go about getting my copy of "National Pastime" signed when I'm in town next week? (I'm assuming you won't be on the beat any longer when the Nats come up here in June.)

Barry Svrluga: Hmmmm. Interesting query. E-mail me before you come. I could wait down on the field before the game or some such thing.

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Downtown: Even if the team is a few years away from contending, what are the chances that there will be a respectable season ticket holder base left by that point?

Already, the glitz of the new stadium has worn off for me, and I intend on dropping my full season plan this year. I know others have been tossing around similar thoughts. Simply put, my unoffical polling of those in and around my section in the dugout box indicates that many people hung around for the new stadium, but the product on the field is so poor and boring to watch that it is just better to buy single game seats off stubhub rather than trying to convince ourselves to watch the same results 81 times each year.

Thoughts?

Barry Svrluga: As I've said many times before, this is the risk of a slow-building process. I think it's one the Nationals understand, a risk they're willing to take. They believe that folks like you will return if/when they win. I keep coming back to the whole "We'll get the attendance we deserve" line from Kasten. They're experiencing that now. If they win, maybe that line will still be true.

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Nationals Offense: Have you seen me? Where am I? I am waiting to hear "a click" according to Manny Acta. Then I am going to really cut loose. Can I do anything to get me started rather than waiting for this "click"?

Barry Svrluga: I just walked the concourses here at Shea looking for you. I did not see you. I will continue the search, starting in the visitors' clubhouse.

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Section 304: I hate that the Nats have Paul LoDuca. I mean, despise, want to get rid off, would like to see dropped into the Anacostia, hate.

I am being told that this is irrational and he's not THAT bad.

Barry, be Solomon here? Am I right? (And if not, would you propose cutting LoDuca in half to settle it? That would solve my problem.)

Barry Svrluga: Yikes. Them's some strong words.

I don't think he's that bad. His record doesn't suggest it. He has, like many of the Nationals, gotten off to a slow start. He's well aware of that and isn't kidding himself about it. I'd be shocked if the guy didn't hit .270-.290 this year.

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Washington, D.C.: How hypocritical are the Nats to fire Page -- who has had his share of personal problems -- but to build a team around roid-using cheaters, miscreat rappers, and a guy who beats up women whom he has impregnated?

Regardless, it is clear to me that these are the Nats we thought we would see last year, and these are the Nats we expected sans the RFK pitching advantage. Do we now realize that our hitters aren't good, regardless, and our pitchers aren't good in a real ballpark?

Barry Svrluga: Here's what I would say is the difference:

When the Nationals first hired Page in 2005, they had a no-tolerance policy because he had been let go by the Cardinals after the 2004 season because of alcohol problems. The Nationals worked with Page, but it didn't work out.

The Nationals have been up-front in their discussions about Dukes. The problem would come if he starts creating problems or has more off-field issues, yet the Nationals hang onto him. That's not what we've been told they'd do. But thus far, no problems.

As for Lo Duca, keep in mind the Nationals signed Lo Duca three days before the Mitchell Report was released. They certainly would have liked to know.

Your point about the ballparks: I'm still trying to get a feel for how Nationals Park will play. It's certainly not a hitters' park, though.

_______________________

N. Bethesda, Md.: Why aren't you as smitten with Justin Maxwell as the rest of us here?

Barry Svrluga: I'm not sure. I think perhaps I should be. I believe he'll strike out a lot, though who knows? He definitely has power, and he's got a great attitude, too. Maybe I just have a mental block that won't allow me to believe he'll be a star.

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Litany of Disappointments: Could't pick one or two to focus on so as to submit prechat, but the early discussion has helped. Also gave me a positive thought.

Gripe--when does it dawn on Kasten and the Lerners that we shouldn't be talking about Bowden being impatient, but why in the blazes is he still the GM? He should have been dismissed the day the Lerners took over from MLB.

Positive--The New Orleans Saints suffered through many, many terrible years. A papal youth rally and a visit from Mother Theresa (both at the Dome) were widely credited with contributing to the breaking of the curses and the first winning seasons and playoff appearances back in the late '80s. Maybe better times are closer than we think.

Secondary Positive thought--although they haven't done much yet, I do believe the return of both Chief and WMP will help bring the situation back to where we all want it to be. Hard to admit that I no longer number WMP as a JimBo mistake, but he showed a lot after arriving last year.

Barry Svrluga: I'll just let these stand.

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langhorne: I haven't heard a Meat Hook update in a while. Another few weeks?

Barry Svrluga: Perhaps, yes. They're trying to get the pain in the back to subside, and it hasn't worked yet. No timetable for him to resume baseball activities -- i.e., taking grounders, hitting, etc.

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Wilmington, N.C.: Can Alex Ovechkin throw a curveball? Maybe after he is done on the ice he can come pitch for the Nats. He'd be like a Russian Bo Jackson!

Barry Svrluga: At this point, I'd be more interested in Alex Ovechkin ... hmm, I don't know ... scoring a goal than throwing a curveball.

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Dunn Loring, Va.: How do you like the Shirley Povich Media Center at Nationals Stadium? And is there a picture of Mr. Povich or a plaque? Do out-of-town reporters know why the press box was given his name? I grew up reading This Morning every morning.

Barry Svrluga: I've hired a sherpa to help me make the trip up there each night, and he's given me tips on how to breathe in thinner air, etc.

Actually, no, it's just fine. The workspace is quite nice. One of the windows shattered on Opening Night -- they slide into place, and the workers slid two into each other, and it spider-webbed. But overall, it's good. And yes, there are lots of pictures of Mr. Povich -- who I never met, unfortunately. It was a nice gesture to name it after him.

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Chris Marrero: Barry, I believe it was your colleague, Sheinin, who said he wouldn't be surprised to see the Nats trade Nick Johnson this year because they've got Marrero on the way. Do they really think he'll be ready for the bigs next year? Wouldn't it be wiser to keep Johnson for at least one more year?

Barry Svrluga: No, I think Marrero won't be really ready for the majors until 2010 -- the year after Johnson's contract is up. I think the more significant part of Sheinin's point -- or perhaps it was mine, because I've made it before -- is that the Nationals would have to consider offers for Johnson if real prospects or pitching was offered in return because I don't believe they consider Nick a real part of the future, if the future is after 2009.

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New York, N.Y.: What do you think about Wily Mo Pena's defense? I'm sure this has been discussed before, but I was at Shea last night (I'm a relatively new Nats fan, only my fifth time seeing them) and left the game disappointed. It just seems like a gaping liability in left field.

Barry Svrluga: Let's be clear: He's not here for his defense. It is, in fact, substandard. I don't think those plays last night are made by an average left fielder. It'd take a really good one to snare the balls that became Jose Reyes's triple or David Wright's homer. The Nationals need Pena to hit. If he does, he'll offset his defense.

_______________________

Barry Svrluga: Folks, we're out of time here at Shea. Thanks for stopping by, and sorry I didn't get to all the questions. Next week's chat will come after this eight-game road trip and prior to a nice little stretch at home, in Nationals Park.

Enjoy tonight's game. Keep checking in for updates on Nationals Journal. I'll talk to you here next week.

_______________________

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