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A new-look lineup, and a bullpen change coming

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There’s a new look in the Nationals’ lineup today, and there will be a new look to their bullpen by the end of the day.

First off, the lineup: Manny Acta has decided to bat Willie Harris leadoff against the Orioles and then bump everyone else down a spot. Which means Cristian Guzman is hitting second, Nick Johnson third, Ryan Zimmerman fourth and Adam Dunn fifth.

If you’re wondering whether Zimmerman has ever hit cleanup before, he has. It’s just been a while. Acta has never had him in the 4-hole in the last three years. But Frank Robinson hit Zimmerman fourth 15 times during the 2006 season, including on the final day of the season.

Acta made the move today for a couple of reasons: 1) He needs to “stretch” his lineup out and get more production from the 5-6-7 holes. So this allows Dunn to hit fifth, Josh Willingham to hit sixth and Elijah Dukes to hit seventh, adding some muscle to the lower half of the lineup. 2) Harris has done well enough lately to merit taking over the leadoff spot. Guzman has always been a square peg in a round hole there, but he’s the closest Acta has to a leadoff man. But with Harris hitting well now, he makes sense at the top.

Now, as for the bullpen… After today’s game, the Nats will activate Scott Olsen off the DL, so the lefty can start tomorrow night in Florida. Craig Stammen will switch from the rotation to the bullpen. Which means another reliever is going to have to be cut.

There really are only two logical candidates: Jesus Colome and Joel Hanrahan. And really when you think about it, Colome is the overwhelmingly obvious choice.

As had as Hanrahan has been lately, he’s still coveted by other teams. I’ve been told this by Nats officials who know this to be true. If Hanrahan was designated for assignment, he would be gobbled up immediately. Is he worth saving? Well, again, as bad as he’s been, he does still have some semblance of upside. Hanrahan was pretty effective last season as a middle reliever/setup man. Obviously his head is all screwed up now after being shuffled in and out of the closer’s role. If the Nats can somehow get him straight mentally, he could still be a valuable reliever moving forward.

Colome, on the other hand, has done very little to merit sticking around. We’ve seen his act for three seasons now, and aside from a few flashes of effectiveness here and there, he has not been good. He really doesn’t figure into the organization’s long-term plans. Might as DFA him now, maybe slip him through waivers, or at worst lose him altogether.

OK, today’s full lineups from Camden Yards…

NATIONALS

CF Willie Harris

SS Cristian Guzman

1B Nick Johnson

3B Ryan Zimmerman

DH Adam Dunn

LF Josh Willingham

RF Elijah Dukes

2B Anderson Hernandez

C Wil Nieves

(P John Lannan)

ORIOLES

CF Adam Jones

2B Ty Wigginton

RF Nick Markakis

1B Aubrey Huff

LF Nolan Reimold

DH Luke Scott

3B Oscar Salazar

C Matt Wieters

SS Robert Andino

(P David Hernandez)

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Mark Zuckerman

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