- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2009

MILLEDGE TO HIT LEADOFF

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Manny Acta used Lastings Milledge in six lineup spots last season, everywhere from second to seventh. But if things work out as planned, Milledge will be a mainstay in a new lineup spot in 2009.

Acta named Milledge his new leadoff hitter Sunday, a bit of a surprising announcement given the 23-year-old center fielder’s lack of experience at the top of the order. The Nationals’ manager, though, said he believes Milledge is a better option than Cristian Guzman, who had the job most of last year.

“I think he’s better suited to lead off right now than Guzman because he runs more,” Acta said. “Seeing him run in front of Guzman is a lot better than seeing him run in front of [No. 3 hitter Ryan] Zimmerman. Plus Guzman hits from the left side, so he’ll be better suited to shoot the hole behind him. And he’s not as patient as Lastings is.”

Milledge jumped around Washington’s lineup last season — his most starts came in the No. 5 spot — but he said he’s ready to embrace the leadoff job, hoping to take advantage of his speed and power.

“I know myself, and I know what kind of player I am,” he said. “I’m always better either at the top of the lineup or towards the bottom of the lineup. I’m not really a middle/clean-up/3-hole-hitter guy yet. I’m more of a guy who needs to get on, steal bases and stuff like that.”

ASTROS 1, NATIONALS 0

Making his first appearance in a big league game in 14 days, John Lannan didn’t miss a beat. The left-hander tossed six scoreless innings, allowing just four singles and a walk.

Lannan, who is slated to start Opening Day, has yet to allow an earned run in 12 official Grapefruit League innings. He also wasn’t scored upon during a five-inning start in an intrasquad game March 14.

The Nationals, though, gave their ace no run support and wound up losing in the ninth when Houston’s Darin Erstad beat out a potential double-play grounder.

— Mark Zuckerman

TEMPERATURE CHECK

JOHN LANNAN [UP]

Hasn’t allowed an earned run in 12 spring innings

WIL NIEVES [DOWN]

After Bard signing, his job is in jeopardy

LOSING TO THE ASTROS [DOWN]

Houston has won four games this spring — two vs. the Nationals

MONDAY’S WEATHER

Washington: Sunny, 52 degrees

Viera: Few showers, 74 degrees

THREE-DAY SCHEDULE

Monday: vs. Cardinals in Jupiter, 1 p.m.

Tuesday: vs. Orioles in Fort Lauderdale, 1 p.m.

Wednesday: vs. Braves in Viera, 7 p.m.

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