There are two merry-go-rounds currently circulating in NatsTown: the starting rotation and the outfield player selection. This of course has been a theme throughout the season dating back to Spring Training.
Any time either of these run-around situations appears to be settling, it flares up again like bone chips in Jason Marquis’ elbow.
The outfield conundrum is one issue that is a little easier to settle since there are less chips being played. Let’s start with who’s in the field.
The steady stream of starters has been Josh Willingham in left, Nyjer Morgan in center, and after many games of exploration Roger Bernadina has landed the spot in right. Manager Jim Riggleman’s handling of who plays right field has been under a microscope by Nats beat writers and fans alike in 2010.
Right now, Michael Morse appears to be the fan favorite according to the blogesphere and is statistically the better player. The issue is depth on Riggleman’s bench. Morse is 5-for-16 as a pinch hitter and his hitting .346 as a substitute player, according to MASN’s Ben Goessling. All of his home runs have been hit as a starter. Bernadina sees more starts in right field because the Nationals think he’s “going to turn over a new leaf at age 26”, according to Federal Baseball’s Mike Prada.
Either way, with Morgan out last night due to hip flexor tightness, both Morse and Bernadina continue to make strong cases for themselves while playing. But that’s beside the point since the Nationals are “still committed to Nyjer Morgan in center,” according to Goessling.
Morse starting in right more times than Bernadina before October looks unlikely pending injuries. For now, he’ll probably stick out the season as a solid bat off the bench or glove in the field when needed.
What’s even more confusing than what to do in the outfield is the starting rotation. Keeping track of who should go where and when and why is enough to drive an Adam Dunn longball all the way to Baltimore, there’s that much force behind the situation.
Questions include but are not limited to: Do the Nats drop Stammen down for Strasburg – again? Is Lannan going to be the workhorse he once was or will he continue to struggle despite time down at the farm? When will Jordan Zimmermann be ready to make his case on the mound at Navy Yard? I think the biggest question that needs answering is whether or not Marquis will ever prove himself worthy of the major investment he was. He’s still got another $7.5 million on his contract in 2011.
A shining light besides Strasburg (pending any further trips to the DL) could be found in the Yunesky Maya four-year, $6 million, major-league contact, but before he’s called up from the Gulf Coast League pitching coach Steve McCatty, General Manager Mike Rizzo, and Riggleman need to solidify some consistency when it comes to their starters.
There are two months left in the season so odds of this occurring are slim. Maybe 2011 will be the year the Nationals find a starting five to stick to.