- The Washington Times - Monday, June 8, 2009

The fact that the Washington Nationals own both the first and 10th picks in Tuesday’s first-year player draft is both a blessing and a curse. No team ever has owned two top-10 picks, so the Nationals have an opportunity to acquire some really serious talent.

Then again, they also face the daunting task of signing both players. They already know presumptive No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg is going to have record-setting demands. But what about the No. 10 pick?

Washington was awarded that selection after failing to sign Aaron Crow a year ago, but there will be no compensation this time around if the player doesn’t come to terms. That leads many to believe the club will only draft someone who is an easy sign, though acting general manager Mike Rizzo insists that won’t be the case.

“We based the preferential list of the [draft] board by talent ability and how much impact potential they have in the organization,” Rizzo said Sunday. “Many, many factors go into the way we put the board together, but we’re not drafting on signability whatsoever.”

The Nationals are looking at several options at the 10th position and in the last week brought potential draftees to Nationals Park for workouts, including Kennesaw State right-hander Chad Jenkins, Stanford right-hander Drew Storen, Notre Dame outfielder A.J. Pollock and high school shortstop Michael Broad.

The club is still putting finishing touches on its final draft board. Once the proceedings begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, there will be no changes to list.

“Honor the board,” Rizzo said.

The spin on Dukes

Elijah Dukes crushed a solo homer off New York Mets right-hander John Maine during Saturday night’s win, a notable accomplishment in that it came after the Nationals slugger spoke with manager Manny Acta and worked with hitting coach Rick Eckstein earlier in the day on adding more backspin when pulling the ball.

Acta and Eckstein noticed Dukes’ hits to center and right field have consistently had backspin, which helps the ball carry deeper. His hits to left field, though, seemed to have topspin, which makes the ball drop. With some small tweaks to Dukes’ swing angle and follow-through, the Nationals think they solved the problem. The evidence Saturday night certainly suggested that.

“It didn’t matter how hard he hit it; he was hitting the ball with topspin, which causes the ball to go down,” Acta said. “We’re just trying to tell him that he doesn’t even need to swing that hard. If he gives the ball backspin to left field, it’ll go out because that’s how strong he is.”

Injury updates

Left-hander Scott Olsen will make his first rehab start for Class A Potomac on Tuesday. Olsen, out since May 17 with shoulder tendinitis, is scheduled to go three innings or 50 pitches. The Nationals want him to work his way up to five innings before coming off the disabled list, so he’s likely to make three rehab starts before returning.

Outfielder Josh Willingham missed his sixth straight game Sunday, but the viral infection that has affected him all week has subsided. The Nationals hope he’ll return to play Tuesday.

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