- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2006

Q: The Nationals’ strategy seems convoluted to me at the moment. Like the Orioles, the team stresses the importance of pitching and then goes out and either signs or trades for position players, sometimes using the few pitching prospects/younger arms it does have. Don’t you believe if the Nationals trade Alfonso Soriano to the Mariners for center fielder Adam Jones and don’t receive a top pitching prospect in return, it will be a major misstep for the organization? Roger Brinley

A: I don’t know about calling it a “major misstep.” Jones is a legitimate top prospect, so if the Nationals were able to acquire him in a trade, it wouldn’t exactly be a total loss.

That said, there’s a severe lack of quality pitching in this organization, and that must be addressed one way or another. The most obvious way, of course, is to trade Soriano for a pitcher (or pitchers). But that doesn’t mean it’s the only way.

The Nationals are shopping around other players as the trade deadline approaches. There’s also the possibility of offseason trades and free agent signings.

Which all leads to two points: 1) If the Nationals trade Soriano, they need to get quality players in return, no matter what position they play, and 2) They need to improve their pitching staff before Opening Day 2007.

Q: What position is Chris Marrero playing in Florida? Is he the draft pick who is a catcher who may have to change to outfield? — Mark

A: You almost have it right. Marrero, the Nationals’ top pick in last month’s amateur draft, played third base in high school. But with Ryan Zimmerman looking like a long-term fixture in the District, the team is trying to turn Marrero into a left fielder.

Through Saturday, Marrero has played 12 games for the organization’s Gulf Coast League team, all in the outfield. He’s hitting .292 with nine RBI.

Q: Watching part of the Nationals game Saturday, I noticed that their caps do not have a “W” but instead have “DC.” Is this a permanent change? I hope not, because I live in Maryland. All of us who live in the metropolitan area know that “Washington” can mean the whole metro area, but “DC” means only the District of Columbia. I hope the new caps are not some sort of political statement and that the team will welcome fans from the whole metro area. Frank E. Howard

A: Wait a minute, Frank Howard is sending in questions to the Nationals Mailbag? Hondo? The Capital Punisher? Oh sorry, that Frank Howard’s middle name is Oliver. I don’t suppose that’s the first time you’ve been mistaken for the ex-Senators slugger.

OK, back to the question. The Nationals indeed wore their alternate “DC” caps all weekend, along with their red “DC” jerseys. But before any suburbanites get upset, this isn’t a permanent change.

The Nationals have been going with the alternate uniforms for all home day games this season. They decided to do it Friday night, too, as part of the weekend’s “Paint the Town Red” marketing campaign.

Rest assured, the curly W will be back tomorrow night.

Send your questions to natsmailbag@washingtontimes.com or go to washingtontimes.com/sports and click on the Nationals Mailbag logo. Please include your full name.

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