It’s finally here – the first day of the season for everyone except the Phillies and the Braves. After a long Spring Training that included the WBC, it’s time to play games that really really count. The Nats get it started against the Marlins, and you’ve gotta assume these 2 teams will be battling it out for 4th place by the end of the season. What may be most interesting to alot of fans is the RFer for the Nats. Austin Kearns will be starting over Elijah Dukes. The main reason for this is that Dukes has an abysmal spring, while Kearns hit very well. Whether Kearns can carry on his good numbers for the remainder of the season, or even the start of the season, remains to be seen.
Dukes, however, needs some work. He’s been reported to be pulling his head away during his swing, and he needs work. If the Nats want him of any use, sitting him probably won’t help. He needs to get his real ABS in. After a few weeks of working him in the cage, if he still isn’t fixed and ready to play, send him down to AAA. That way he can get his 4 plate appearances every game. If he’s in bad hitting shape, he’s not worth much as a bench player. And if he’s hitting well, then he shouldn’t be on the bench.If he’s not starting in some capacity (CF/RF) 4 games a week (same with Milledge), then the Nats are wasting opportunities to get valuable experience for their young talent. These guys need the opportunity to play. All this is premature, of course, since they haven’t even played one game. But keep an eye on it, I know I will. My prediction is that the Nats know this and will make it work, I’m just anxious to see how.
The one positive out of this is that Austin Kearns has been hitting well. Maybe someone will see what he’s doing, coupled with his very good defense, which unlike his offense never disappeared, and take some interest. The Nats may not expect to get much in return for the soon-to-be 29 year old with the $8 million salary. But if they are willing to eat most of the salary, and he does perform, they should be able to get something. So, on the season debut, let’s hope Austin hits well, and Dukes fixes his swing. Enjoy the baseball season!