The Washington Times - August 27, 2011, 12:08PM

CINCINNATI — The future, as they say, is coming and the Nationals will begin the official transition to getting a glimpse at the next wave of that future when they welcome Chris Marrero into the visitors clubhouse at Great American Ball Park this afternoon. More will come next week and in the days of September that follow, but Marrero is the first.

It has been five years since the Nationals tabbed Marrero with their first-round pick in the 2006 draft (15th overall) and while Marrero has gone through a lot to get to this point, including two position changes and a leg injury, one thing can be certain about the Nationals newest addition: he can hit.


Players currently on the Nationals who’ve played with Marrero, either briefly or through the years, talk about his prowess with the bat with the implication that, were Marrero drafted five years ago by an American League team he’d have been in the big leagues already. Defense, of course, has always been the question mark but even there, Marrero has improved.

Saturday will mark the start for him — a chance to prove that his career .285 batting average, .353 on-base percentage and .457 slugging percentage in the minor leagues will translate to the major leagues. To prove that he can indeed be the hitter and first baseman they want for years to come.

And in getting him that opportunity, Ryan Mattheus got an assurance of a similar kind.

Mattheus, who was placed on the disabled list Friday with a right shoulder strain, does intend to come back and pitch again this season but even if he doesn’t, he was given an assurance that he’s done all he needs to. His first major league season (mostly) in the books, Mattheus’ 2.40 ERA, .226 opponent’s batting average and the fact that he allowed just 29 percent of inherited runners to score has ensured his place in the Nationals bullpen going into spring training.

“They’re looking to the future and they look at me as part of that future,” Mattheus said. “It’s kind of nice. You’ve almost got to be more concerned when they just keep running you out there. I think (Nationals manager Davey Johnson) showed the confidence in me by putting me in situations so early in my major league career, he showed the confidence. But the reassurance to hear him say it, especially when you’re injured, and he tells you that you’ve got nothing to prove, it’s nice.”

“I hope to pitch (again this year),” he added. “Just so there’s no questions going into next year, knowing I’m healthy. That’s the biggest thing for me, that’s my main concern, they know I’m healthy and there’s no questions when I come into spring training and hopefully compete for a job.”