We’re in Philadelphia for the next three days, as the Nationals make their first trip of the year to visit the world champions. A ltitle news as we get started:
—Willie Harris is still on track to return tomorrow, and Cristian Guzman the day after that. The glut of infielders will likely make Harris an extra outfielder more than anything. I asked Manny Acta if that will put Justin Maxwell in a situation where getting more playing time is more important than staying in the majors, and he said, “Our preference is that Maxie gets more at-bats.” Not hard to read between the lines there—Maxwell’s probably headed to Syracuse sometime soon.
When Guzman returns, I’d expect to see Alex Cintron head back to the minors.
—Everybody is talking about Jesus Flores’ offense the last few days, but the Nationals are just as impressed with the strides he’s made handling pitchers. Mike Rizzo was saying yesterday how he doesn’t even congratulate Flores on his offensive contributions; he wants Flores to know how much value the team places on his defensive progression. He’s made great strides learning English, which has helped him handle pitchers better, and he’s not afraid to get a little firm with a hurler when he needs to. “He takes it hard when guys either can’t follow the pitching plan or want to get out of it,” Acta said. “That’s something we really like about him. Even in 2007, he showed he had some leadership skills. You do, sometimes, have to show the pitchers that you’re in charge and not be afraid to confront somebody. We were very surprised when he did that in 2007 a couple times. He has gained every one of those guys’ respect. Nobody sees him anymore as a Rule 5 young kid.”