- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2006

Q: Early in the season wouldn’t it be better to leave Alfonso Soriano in the game to give him practice and/or confidence in left field? You never know when you’ll need his bat late in the game. Dustin Chaffee

A: This is going to be one of those season-long things to watch, Dustin. Obviously, Soriano isn’t going to be the Nationals’ best defensive left fielder, so the smart move would be to replace him when you have a late lead. But Frank Robinson surprised some people last week in Houston when he pulled Soriano in the seventh inning of what was a three-run game at the time. In that ballpark, a three-run lead is nothing, so perhaps you don’t want to remove Soriano’s bat so early.

Perhaps Robinson is starting to have a little more faith in Soriano’s defense, though. Saturday night in Florida, he left him in for the final innings of a 2-1 victory, and Soriano rewarded the decision by gunning down Wes Helms, who was trying to stretch a single into a double.

Q: Any timetable for the recall of Billy Traber? — Keith Engle

A: Maybe the end of the week, Keith. With Ryan Drese on the disabled list with an elbow injury, the Nationals need a new No. 5 starter. They haven’t announced their intentions, but Traber (who impressed in spring training and is off to a good start at Class AAA New Orleans) appears to be the favorite to get the call.

Q: Are there any recent draft picks, other than Ryan Zimmerman who show real promise to be impact players in the major leagues? — Brian T.

A: Good question, Brian. The guy most likely to make an impact in the near future is left-handed reliever Bill Bray, the Expos’ No.1 pick in 2004. He nearly made the roster this spring and probably isn’t far from getting the call.

If/when Bray does join the Nationals, they’ll be the only team in baseball with their last three No.1 draft picks already in the major leagues: Zimmerman (2005), Bray (2004) and Chad Cordero (2003).

Q: What comes first this season: The Nationals get an owner, or the Nationals win 10 games? — Bert Harbinson

A: Hmm, MLB may name the owner as soon as Friday. And the Nationals (4-9) will have played only four more games through Friday.

Here’s a better one for you, Bert. What comes first: The Nationals’ new owner actually takes over day-to-day control of the organization, or the team gets to 30 wins? That could be a close call.

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