The Washington Times - March 29, 2011, 09:32AM

The Nationals will play their final contest of the spring in a few hours before packing up and heading north to get to Washington in time for Wednesday’s NatsFest.

In their final game, at 1:05 against the Mets, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman offers a glimpse at what is surely to be a lineup we see many times this season when the Nationals face a left-handed pitcher.


Ian Desmond SS
Jayson Werth RF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Michael Morse LF
Adam LaRoche 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr. CF
Danny Espinosa 2B
Ivan Rodriguez C
Jordan Zimmermann P

There are most likely times during the season that Hairston will leadoff against left-handers while Desmond slots into the six-hole, but Riggleman may be trying to help Desmond see as much time at leadoff as he can, so that he’s comfortable there.

Also, Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche are trasnsposed from where they’d be in a right-handed facing lineup, which allows Zimmerman to be protected by a right-hander.

— If you read one thing today (aside from this blog post, of course) make sure you take a look at this piece by Yahoo!’s Steve Henson about the Eckstein family tradition of sorts for donating kidneys.

Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein was the latest member of the family to donate, giving his brother Ken a kidney this past offseason. Here’s an excerpt:

“I remember waking up one morning and knowing I was going to donate to my brother,” Rick says. “I can’t explain it. I just knew.”

When he got to the ballpark that day last September, he had the Nationals’ trainer give him a blood test. His parents had been under the impression Rick was B-positive, but the test came back O-positive — a match for Ken.

Although advances in transplant technology allow a patient to accept a kidney from a donor with a different blood type, the process is much easier if the types match, Dr. Angelis says.

Rick called Christine, who had been caring for Ken, to let her know he was O-positive. As had happened so many times with the Ecksteins, the offer to give triggered an outpouring of emotion, and Christine broke into tears. Ken needed Rick to convince him that he was aware of the risks, aware that his own career could be jeopardized should complications such as infection or blood clots arise.

“I wanted to know that what my heart was telling me was real,” Rick says. “The disease attacks both kidneys. So by me donating one kidney, it doesn’t increase my risk. If I was to come down with the disease, it would take both kidneys anyway.”

Rick reminded Ken that transplant surgery had come a long way. Their mother had a scar from her shoulder to her inner thigh after donating to Susan in 1989. Dr. Angelis said the operation on Rick would be laparoscopic, requiring only a three-inch incision through his belly button.

“I’m doing it,” he told Ken.

A day after the procedure, Rick drove himself home from the hospital. He was in the gym within five days and pitching batting practice within two weeks. During spring training this year, Rick is as active as always, carrying buckets of baseballs, working with hitters and dashing from field to field at the Nationals’ Viera, Fla., complex.

“I wouldn’t say it wasn’t a big deal, but I made it not a big deal,” he says. “I used the mind-set that I was going to be fine and go to spring training and nothing was going to stop me.”

The entire piece is phenomnal and I urge you to give it a read.