Nats' Opening Day 2010 -- Hope for the Future?

The Washington Nationals kick off the 2010 campaign this afternoon at Nationals Park, taking on Roy Halladay in his Philadelphia Phillies debut. Its tough to see the Nats treating fans to an opening day win against one of the best pitchers in baseball and arguably the best top to bottom lineup in the National League, but the 2010 Nationals should be an improvement from last season's group, which posted the majors' worst record for the second season in a row. The Nationals send young ace John Lannan to the mound in a game that very well just might be the sign of a promising future for the club. At this point, there is no where to go but upwards, and that is exactly the attitude that Nationals ownership, players, and fans should have. As we move closer to the first pitch of the 2010 season, below are a few story lines fans can keep their attention to during the early portion of the 2010 campaign.
  1. Strasburg's arrival - the better part of the early season will be spent watching Strasburg's development in the minors, as he is scheduled to start at AA Harrisburg on April 11th. I'd expect Washington to be abuzz with Strasburg fever in anticipation of a mid season callup. This will be especially true if the Nationals come out flat early on in the year, as the arrival of the phenom will be something that lures fans in during the dog days of summer. Other likely callups include reliever Drew Storen (the Nationals other 2009 first round pick) and former Terp Justin Maxwell, who has had stints with the club in recent years and may be a likely candidate to solidfy the outfield come mid-season.

  2. Bullpen Improvement? - The Nationals have hopefully improved their horrendous 2009 bullpen, adding Brian Bruney from the Yankees, Matt Capps from the Pirates and Miguel Batista from the Mariners. Not exactly a list of household names, but here's to hoping that these guys can breathe some new life into a relief corp that blew game after game last season.

  3. New Look Infield - The opening day infield features familiar faces at the corners (Dunn and Zimmerman) with rookie Ian Desmond, a lat season callup who impressed in late 2009, and incoming veteran Adam Kennedy manning second base. Christian Guzman appears to be the odd man out but will likely be a solid utility player and may even takeover a starting job should Kennedy or Desmond fail to produce early on.

  4. Who's in Right Field? - The release of Elijah Dukes leaves right field open to a potential platoon of Willie Harris and Willy Taveras. Neither is likely to impress from the plate, but both have shown their abilities to cover significant ground area in right. Potential callups (i.e. Justin Maxwell) could change this, but for now.
So what will 2010 bring to the Nationals? Only time will tell. Contention is highly unlikely, but improvement and hope for the future may give fans a sense of optimism for the first time in years.

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