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Is a LF platoon the best answer?

Feb 19, 2011, 10:41 PM EDT

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Roger Bernadina is battling Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel for playing time in left field.

VIERA, Fla. — Rarely have the Nationals entered spring training with as many starting jobs around the diamond locked up like this. With six weeks still remaining before Opening Day, the Nats already know their starting catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, center fielder and right fielder.

Then there’s left field, which at this point is completely up for grabs between Roger Bernadina, Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel.

Any one of the three could seize the starting job and become a lineup mainstay. Or the Nationals could decide not to declare anyone the starter and simply rotate all three in and out of the lineup.

“I’m open to either of those situations,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “If Mike Morse or if Bernadina or if Ankiel, if one of those guys is clearly dominant over the others in spring training, then we’ll put that guy out there. But if it’s a combination of a couple guys … if we did get in a situation where we platooned, that would be the one position we would do that.”

Read my full story on the different possibilities in left field on CSNwashington.com.

  1. Doc - Feb 19, 2011 at 11:11 PM

    You noted it Mark. Morse hits righties, and lefties better than Bernadina hits lefties, or righties. Bernadina may surprise us, but probably not. In any event he makes a good sub for either LF or CF. I'm like a lot of fans, I'd like to see Morse do full time in LF, and Bernadina be the regualar CF—but I guess ST will help sort it out.

  2. Big Cat - Feb 19, 2011 at 11:25 PM

    Hmmmmmmm…….looks a lot like Barry Bonds, if you know what I mean……hmmmmmmmm

  3. Sunderland - Feb 19, 2011 at 11:26 PM

    I'm not arguing about the positions that are locked up, but some are more locked up than others.The catcher spot is obviously a platoon situation, we just don't want to call it that out of deference to his-Pudge-ness.There are two other spots where the presumed starter has a loose hold, 2B and CF.Espinosa will get leash. If he plays very good defense and hits .230 then he'll keep his spot. His potential replacement is also established, Jerry Hairston Jr.The more complicated situation is CF, where Nyjer also will get leash, but there are a myriad of possibilities for outfield configurations without Nyjer or with Nyjer playing only against RHSP's.

  4. Avar - Feb 19, 2011 at 11:45 PM

    I agree with Sunderland about leashes at CF and 2B. But I think Desmond should have one too. Objectively he didn't hit or field very well last year. Personally, I want Morse in LF everyday for April and let's see what he does. We have made progress but we really only have two proven average or above average hitters at their position, Zim and Werth. LaRoche is well below average for 1B and Pudge is a legend but currently well below average offensively.I'm not pessimistic because we have talented guys who could easily pan out and we are moving in the right direction. But the truth is we have a LOT of uncertainty. This lineup could very easily be horrible. I mean like worst in the league horrible. Or it could be average. I can't see it being above average.

  5. Anonymous - Feb 19, 2011 at 11:56 PM

    2010 Adam LaRoche, compared to all full time 1B's HR, 25, 13thRBI, 100, 10thSLG, .468, 13thLaRoche is in no way below average.

  6. Kenz aFan - Feb 20, 2011 at 12:42 AM

    To quote the article at CSNwashington.com, "The Nationals are particularly keen on Bernadina, who excels in the field and was solid at the plate most of last season before tailing off late."That statement borders on the comical. Yes, Bernadina excelled defensively, but except for the month of June, he was God awful at the plate. Take away that month and he batted just .226, had an OBP around .280, slugged for .361 and had a very much unimpressive OPS around .650Bernadina is a fourth outfielder at best, and only with the Nationals does he get the attention a regular outfielder does.

  7. yankish2 - Feb 20, 2011 at 12:49 AM

    I agree with Big Cat comparing Bernadina's likeness to Bonds. Wonder what Roger's hat size was in October compared to this spring?

  8. Slidell - Feb 20, 2011 at 1:00 AM

    In response to Mark's question; the answer is "Probably not". Based on recent performance, Morse has earned the opportunity to show what he can do. If not now, when? To many of us in the hinterlands who base decisions primarily on performance and common sense, the platooning question seems to be one better posed for CF.

  9. barney - Feb 20, 2011 at 1:40 AM

    Based on a single picture of Bernadina (what could be more scientific??) I would guess that he was NOT using steroids as his face does not have the characteristic puffiness. HGH, on the other hand, can't be ruled out and isn't tested for in the majors.

  10. Anonymous - Feb 20, 2011 at 2:34 AM

    Michael Morse, Corey Brown, and Laynce Nix all came into camp in impressive shape. Morse is historically the better hitter. His presence in the lineup should offset the loss of Dunn and Willingham and possibly create a tangible increase in offensive output. If Bernandina could hit for a high OBP there's your lead off hitter. You would still have 3 left-handed bats in Espinosa, Bernadina, and LaRoche. Ankiel off the bench along with Morgan …

  11. Dan H - Feb 20, 2011 at 8:06 AM

    I personally like the following as a lineup:9 Werth8 Bernardina7 Morse5 Zimmerman3 Laroche6 Desmond4 Espinosa2 Ramos/Flores1Not necessarily an impressive lineup and a little unorthodox, but it would might solve the lead-off issue and help to determine whether either Morse or Bernardina is a legitimate everyday player (and I think Bernardina needs to be a center fielder if he is to fit into that category). I have no problems with Rodriguez as being one of the two catchers who head north but think a priority should be in determining whether Ramos or Flores can be a #1.

  12. CapPeterson - Feb 20, 2011 at 1:48 PM

    I like Dan H's bold lineup. Why not take it a couple of steps farther and bat them in reverse position number–9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1?Seriously, the official line that Nyjer has locked up CF is more than a little irritating. Giving Pudge his props in spring training, sure, but Nyjer? I know it won't happen, but Rigs should say that CF is up for grabs, and let Nyjer, the Flying (and Flexing?)Dutchman, Corey Brown, Ankiel, etc. fight it out. If Nyjer has a great spring and outplays Rog, let the latter then fight it out with Morse for PT in LF.

  13. JayB - Feb 20, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    Njack,Rizzo did no tell me anything……I am jealous. I was just able to swing through camp for an just under 2 hours this visit…Be back later if all goes as planned…I did not see Alex C so I am a happy camper for now….trust you will tell me if he gets into MLB camp this week. Not much to complain about at this point…My impressions, short visit as it was…..much better athletes with a real focus on there work….I did not see anyone who looked out of shape, heavy, wasting time, goofing off etc…..That was nice and should really pay off now and down the line! Oh, I did not see Wang throw live but looked at video…..I did not see much hope there..I know people Nats are trying to spin his second session but if you read between the lines I hear a anger…..still do not understand why Rizzo's expectations and Wang's progress as so far apart….That disconnect has been going on for well over a year now. What are you hearing about that issue?

  14. Looks like we're not the only ones sick and tired of JayB - Feb 20, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    "There's no point going back and trying to figure it all out," Rizzo said. "In baseball, a hundred things 'could have happened.' You take your best shot and then move on."Boswell column, 2/19/11

  15. JamesFan - Feb 20, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    The Nats do not have enough offense to let Morse hang out on the bench. He'll get his chance. My guess is that Bernie will end up competing with Nyjer for center.

  16. JayB - Feb 20, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. BinM - Feb 20, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    We'll see how it plays out over the next month or so. Those 'guns' Bernadina now sports won't necessarily stop him from flailing on an outside breaking pitch. I'll be just as interested in who doesn't take the first few bus-trips in ST this year – That can be a fair indicator of who they want more 'game-time' looks at; Starting Gaudin on the road, and Livo at home is a good example of what I'm talking about.

  18. JayB - Feb 20, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    BinM is correct on Roger….He looks great but none of that helps ID a breaking ball or hit it the other way…..It seems very odd to add that much muscle there….not really baseball best practice for off season training….Hope it is natural or it will be more than a waste of effort.

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