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The catching question

Feb 22, 2010, 9:03 PM EST

VIERA, Fla. — In one oversized locker among all the Nationals' starting position players, the future Hall-of-Famer and greatest catcher of his generation sits and gabs with his new teammates. A few lockers down, the young guy who once was and still is considered the organization's long-term answer behind the plate listens in to the conversation and shares his own thoughts.

Meanwhile, down at the far end of the room, the quiet 21-year-old soaks in the feeling of his first big-league camp, knowing he is considered one of the best catching prospects in the minors. And somewhere in Southern Nevada right now, a 17-year-old phenom who has already appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated wonders if he'll become the Nats' next No. 1 draft pick and, by extension, their new catcher of the future.

For a franchise that in past years has at times struggled to put a legitimate big-league backstop on the field, the Nationals all of a sudden find themselves with a potential logjam behind the plate.

Jesus Flores was supposed to be both the immediate and long-term answer, but he's still recovering from a major shoulder injury last season and likely won't be ready to return by Opening Day. So the Nats signed Ivan Rodriguez this winter to a two-year, $6 million contract,Read more »

  1. Bob L. Head - Feb 22, 2010 at 9:10 PM

    Excess catching is a high quality problem. For all the things the club may have flubbed over the past few years, they have succeeded in improving depth behind the plate.

  2. natsone_va - Feb 22, 2010 at 9:19 PM

    Mark, why did Flores change his number form 3 to 26?

  3. Mark Zuckerman - Feb 22, 2010 at 9:20 PM

    natsone_va: Check out this posting from Friday, which includes the explanation of Flores' number switch:

  4. greg - Feb 22, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    Yup. Absolutely no problem having excess inventory at a premium position (SP, C, SS, CF). One too many quality starters at one of those positions? fill a hole somewhere else via trade.

  5. peric - Feb 22, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    Does anyone have a feel after watching the "new guy" left hander? Aaron Thompson … the guy they go in the Nick the Stick deal? Looks like Brian is down there too.

  6. peric - Feb 22, 2010 at 10:45 PM

    But the "inventory" at catcher seems pretty sparse given Flores longer recuperation and recovery? Now you have Pudge who is not a young catcher, Nieves and Sean Rooney (who is a rung above Norris right now), and then Norris. There is also Jhonothan Solano who seemed to quail when arrived in AAA. And Jamie Burke??? Killian and Nieto are still down in low A? Isn't this a tad high risk?

  7. sbrent - Feb 22, 2010 at 10:46 PM

    Wow, amazing responsiveness, Mark! Several posters comment after the Olsen piece asking about catchers, and — voila! — almost immediately a brilliantly done feature on that appears! One could really get to like this blog journalism! (If only you were actually making a salary, in addition to covering costs…)

  8. Steve M. - Feb 22, 2010 at 10:50 PM

    I saw photos of Ballestar and it is tough to take a guy seriously who doesn't take himself seriously.I can appreciate Olsen muttering to himself and other guys that have that chip on their shoulder because they want to succeed.Here's where I think the starting rotation is on July 1st:Marquis, Lannan, Wang, XXXXXX, Strasburg.So management will send 3 of the youngsters on to the Opening Day 25 man and then 1 of those 3 stays in the rotation.I like how Stammen has said he would take a place in the bullpen. I think even the bullpen is over-crowded.Someone has to emerge as head and shoulders above the rest like Jordan Zimmermann did last year.

  9. Steve M. - Feb 22, 2010 at 10:54 PM

    Mark, well said on the catchers. I think the Nats are fine with Pudge and Nieves holding down the fort so JFlo doesn't have to be rushed back to action.

  10. peric - Feb 22, 2010 at 11:30 PM

    But if one of Pudge (age making it more likely) or Nieves happens to go down? Do you bring up Jhonothan Solano? Sean Rooney? Norris the defensive catcher isn't ready and he hasn't faced AA/AAA pitching as yet? Who do you call? Pete Orr?I wouldn't depend on seeing either Wang or Strasburg in the starting rotation on July 1st. I would be happy if Storen did well enough to advance. Patience is required with both of those pitchers.

  11. Andrew - Feb 23, 2010 at 1:13 AM

    Let's hope we see Strasburg and Wang on July 1st if not first week of June!

  12. greg - Feb 23, 2010 at 2:57 AM

    why wouldn't you expect wang by july 1? he's scheduled to start pitching in the minors in april. you have some news that says he won't start then or that he'll need more than 2.5 months of minor league seasoning?





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