I'm concerned about promoting Stephen Strasburg to the Major Leagues so quickly. I'd like to see him learn how to pitch for a season or two in the Minors first. I remember David Clyde coming up too soon for the Rangers in the early 1970s and would hate to see that repeated.
-- Richard G., Washington, D.C.
I understand your concerns, Richard. But if he is the best pitcher during Spring Training, I believe Strasburg should be in the rotation. I think he is better than a lot of the Nationals pitchers fighting for the final two spots in the rotation.
I heard the same concerns about Dwight Gooden in 1984, but he turned out to be the best pitcher on the Mets' staff that season. We'll see how Strasburg does once the exhibition season starts.
With Ross Detwiler and Chien-Ming Wang out for a few months, do you think Chuck James might get a chance to become part of the starting rotation?
-- Don M., Stratford, PE, Canada
I don't know. James is going to start the exhibition season in Minor League camp, so he has to show the Nationals that he could pitch well against players not on the 40-man roster. Ask me this question in a couple of weeks. I should know a little more about James by then.
Bringing back reliever Ron Villone made me wonder why the Nats didn't re-sign Mike MacDougal. MacDougal was one of the few bright spots last year.
-- Luke H., Prince Frederick, Md.
I agree that MacDougal did a good job last year, but the Nationals were concerned that he was not going to recover from hip surgery quickly enough. Of all the relievers who received the most praise by manager Jim Riggleman last year, Villone was No. 1 because of his leadership on the field and in the clubhouse. I'm not surprised that Villone is back with the team.
Since Wang will not be available until later in the season, would the Nationals have any interest in pursuing John Smoltz as an early-season starter and then moving him to the bullpen where he could provide leadership and help shore up middle relief?
-- Glenn B., Arlington, Va.
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As of now, the Nationals haven't had any conversations with Smoltz recently. He may wait until the middle of the season to play baseball. We'll see.
I find it interesting that you focus so much on the defensive weaknesses of Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Cristian Guzman. Yet, you seem to have a selective memory when it comes to the defense of Elijah Dukes, who was average at best and had many misplays and errors.
-- Robert M., Daytona Beach, Fla.
Dukes, indeed, needs to improve his defense, but I wouldn't go so far to say that he made many misplays and errors. But I think Dukes is better than Dunn and Willingham as outfielders.
What I have found amazing is, there is so much blame on the pitching staff, and rightfully so. But in my opinion, a lot of those losses in the second half of last season were caused by the team's defense, which ranked first in errors. The defense must improve this season. I hope Dunn, Guzman and Willingham prove me wrong this year.
I noticed that outfielder Chris Duncan is a non-roster invitee. He was a fan favorite in St. Louis. What are his chances of making the roster out of Spring Training?
-- Tim S. Richmond, Va.
To me, Duncan is the most intriguing player in camp because he put together some nice seasons with St. Louis. The reason he signed with Washington is because he worked with hitting coach Rick Eckstein in the past. Duncan is fighting to be a fourth or fifth outfielder on the Major League roster.
Dunn seems fine at first base, and everyone is raving about Chris Marrero's bat, but what about Mike Morse? When he came up late last year, he looked solid as a rock to me. -- Woody S., Arlington, Va.
I was impressed by what Morse did last season. I love his swing. Just based on what he did in 2009, he should be one of the leading candidates for a role off the bench. He was always ready to play whenever Riggleman put him in the lineup.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.