As weak as the Nationals’ starters are, their depth is just grotesque. Bowden was renowned for the awful benches he would build, but this group, featuring the likes of Laynce Nix, Matt Stairs, and Jerry Hairston could match up very well with the Baerga-Blanco-Cordero benches of the Bowden era.
And if the Nationals suffer any injuries? If Werth loses time you’re looking at a starting outfield of what, Morse, Ankiel, and Laynce Nix? If Zimmerman gets hurt, and let’s say one of the two middle infielders needs some time back in Syracuse at some point, you’re looking at an infield with Alex Cora and Jerry Hairston?
That’s not a real ringing endorsement. And when Mike Rizzo did his weekly radio show on 106.7 The Fan Monday night, one of the questions he was asked came via @adammcginnis on Twitter:
Why are Laynce Nix, Matt Stairs, Jerry Hairston on Nats roster? Get it for contender but makes no sense for a last place team. You can throw in Alex Cora, too. Rick Ankiel is starting? Lots of retread vets for worst team in MLB two years running.
So Rizzo was asked a variation of this question, in slightly less harsh language. Needless to say, he didn’t agree with the premise.
“I could not disagree any more with that statement,” Rizzo said. “These guys are the mentors of these young players. We have a good core of good young players, and believe me, the addition of Matt Stairs and Laynce Nix and Jerry Hairston Jr. — along with [the fact that] they’re pretty darn good baseball players, know their roles and have excelled at the role of being a bench player — that is one of the big reasons that these guys are on the club, is to teach these good young prospect players how to be Major Leaguers.
“You know, it’s impossible to run out there young players at every position, have a young bench, nobody with experience in teaching these guys how to be Major League players. So none of those players that you mentioned is gonna take one at-bat away from a prospect. These guys are gonna play every day, as much as we feel they need to to develop their talents to win on a Major-League level this year and beyond.
“The addition of those good veteran bench players is to fill in when we need them to fill in. They’re very versatile players, and they’re gonna be great mentors for these guys to become really good every-day Major League players.”