Day 5 in Viera: Defensive Versatility a Key in 2011

Happy
weekend to everyone, well except to the Nationals’ players and coaches. As we
all know, weekends don’t exist in baseball, so our pitchers and catchers were
back at it this morning under beautiful sunny skies in Viera. The high is
supposed to be 74 today. Very little wind, which is unusual for this area. I
know I am a bit redundant with my weather comments, but I hope everyone
understands that this has been the best February weather I have ever
experienced down here. It has been perfect. I am also hoping that this entices
all our fans from in/around DC to cut their winters short and visit us in the
Grapefruit League for a week or so. You won’t regret it.

Once
again, my name is John Dever and I am the PR Director for your Nationals. I
have a pair of fine gentlemen, Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna, that I work closely
with and we are sharing some of our top Nationals-centric observations with you
in hopes of revving up your engines for the upcoming season. On Mon., Feb. 28,
we will pass the blogging baton to Mark Lerner, who will share his unique
thoughts about the Nationals’ 2011 Grapefruit League efforts.

Here
are some of our Saturday-morning observations:

*
New arrivals today included Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Chris Marrero. Hairston is
going to be interesting to watch. This guy can play everywhere at anytime. In
the midst of a pennant race, Hairston served as the Padres’ regular shortstop
for much of the second half of 2010 as Everth Cabrera dealt with injuries. From
what I have gathered, and what O’s fans might recollect, Hairston’s best
position is second base. But don’t be shocked to see him playing a bit of
center field too. Hairston is going to be a very valuable player for Jim
Riggleman. I think this was one of Mike Rizzo’s most underrated signings of the
offseason.

*
Speaking of shortstop, it appears like Jim Riggleman might be using the
3-shortstop defensive alignment quite a bit this summer. What? Well, think
about it. First of all, Ian Desmond is a young shortstop. And a darn good one.
Then you have his pivoting partner, Danny Espinosa, the latest in a long line
of Long Beach State shortstops (Crosby, Tulowitzki, Longoria). Yes, he’ll be
playing second base this season in Washington, but he had only played shortstop
as a pro until being summoned to Syracuse last summer. And then we have this
guy named Ryan Zimmerman. You may have heard of him. Zimmerman played quite a
bit of shortstop at UVA before being drafted fourth overall in 2005. The
established presence of Mark Reynolds at UVA forced Zimmerman, then a freshman
(or a First Year as they like to say in Charlottesville), to shift over. And
let’s remember, Zimmerman has played a part in a handful of 4-5-3 or 6-5-3 GDPs
during his Big League career. He knows his way around the second-base bag. So,
keep Adam LaRoche and the 3-shortstop defense in the back of your minds this
summer at Nationals Park.

*
You might be surprised as to who the biggest NBA fan is among Nationals. How
long would it take you to guess Livan Hernandez? True story. Hernandez watches
games on ESPN, TBS and TNT all the time. This guy knows what is happening in
the Association. He plans to get up to an Orlando Magic game in the coming
weeks. But tonight, Hernandez is jacked about the dunk contest. He is hardly
the only one excited to see Blake Griffin tonight, but let’s remember that
JaVale McGee will represent the Wizards too. Here’s hoping McGee can do some
damage and represent The District.

*
Pudge Rodriguez is suddenly very into MLB’s First-Year Player Draft, and it has
nothing to do with the impending arrival of Bryce Harper to camp. Rather, Pudge
is interested to see how his son Ivan Dereck fares, as he is in his
draft-eligible season. Ivan Dereck is a center fielder and he is a wiry-strong
6-foot-2. He also closes games for Monsignor Pace (FL) High in Miami
Gardens (same HS from which Chris Marrero was drafted). Pudge says Ivan Dereck
can throw 90-92 mph, but his bat is too good to waste, so he sees him as a
center fielder. Ivan Dereck will be one to watch as we get into early June.

*
Book Club Note of the Day: DC-resident Josh Wilkie, the pride of George
Washington University, really enjoyed reading The Help, by Kathryn Stockett,
during the offseason. You can read more about The Help here.
Josh recently started reading Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton (no relation to
the former Nationals lefthander). Here is Stanton’s website.

We’ll be back at it tomorrow afternoon as we watch the final position
players trickle in. Enjoy your weekend everyone!

1 Comment

John, I’d love to hear more about this “3-shortstop defensive alignment.” Would that mean activating the Keeler / Boudreau shifts more often, or actually using Espinosa and Zimmerman at short during entire games?

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