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[August 17th] -- So now it's official. Nick Johnson will not return to the Nationals this year. Now, don't get me wrong; not having Nick at first for the rest of the year won't hurt the team -- in fact, a rusty Johnson at first instead of Dmitri Young would probably have cost the team a few wins over these last six weeks. But we needed to see Nick out there for twenty or thirty games, not for this year, but for next. Can Nick Johnson return to his pre-injury form? Can he still field flawlessly, can he hit .290-25-90 again? If he could prove it now- even for short periods of time - the Nationals would feel far more comfortable penciling his name into the lineup card for next year. Jim Bowden could then begin the task of fixing the holes in the outfield for 2008.

But now, well, now we just don't know. Nick might return to first, or he might not. Dmitri Young might play first, but then he might not. And we all know he really can't play left for extended periods of time. Do you remember Daryle Ward last year in the outfield? Bowden now has to work around yet another question mark for 2008.

Though I love Nick, I'm beginning to believe that the team needs to move on without him. Even if he recovers from this injury, who's to say that he's not going to go down a month later, or even a week later? Johnson's doctor said this past spring that Nick was having a difficult time recuperating because he is a "slow healer." I think Dmitri can probably hold down first for another year, but the team will have to look elsewhere by 2009.

Ugly Loss, Good Outing. There was another bright spot among the ugliness last night at RFK. Joel Hanrahan continues to impress. He allowed two runs and four hits in five innings. The four walks weren't particularly pretty, but man, those eight strikeouts were very very impressive. Hanrahan's ERA went up just a tinch to 2.95.

The former 2nd round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers is still just 25, and has been successful at every step along his career. He had a record of 67-49, 4.19 in eight minor league seasons. He allowed just eight hits per nine innings while averaging almost eight strikeouts per nine. His problem has always been his control, however. The four walks given up last night was typical of a Hanrahan outing. He's averaged 4.5 walks per nine innings in the minors and 4.2 walks per 9 during his time with the Nationals.

John Sickels said the following about Hanrahan in 2004: "Hanrahan is a physical pitcher with good size and stamina. His fastball has sinking action, and usually runs in the 89-91 range, occasionally hitting 92 mph. He throws strikes with it, and has enough self-confidence to throw the pitch on hitters' fists to back them off the plate. His second pitch is a nasty slider with good bite. He also has a changeup that he is using more this year, and shows an admirable feel for keeping hitters off-balance and mixing his pitches well. His control is solid, not outstanding, but good for a young power pitcher.He profiles out as a solid No. 2 or 3 starter if he stays healthy and maintains his command."

There is every reason to believe that Hanrahan can be a mainstay in the rotation for another five or six years. He's going to average close to fourteen baserunners per game - that's just the way he pitchers. However, like Livan Hernandez, he's shown the ability to pitch around those runners.

I feel comfortable that both Hanrahan and Tim Redding have the talent to remain in the rotation for some time to come. Neither will dazzle the opposition, but both can be counted on to eat innings and give the Nationals an opportunity to win. At 29, though, Redding will be more of a stop-gap than Hanrahan.

I Hate McGeary: Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton interviewed newest National Jack McGeary during Thursday night's broadcast. I hate him. He's handsome, talented and extremely articulate. He seemed more like a Stanford graduate rather than an incoming freshman. I think I remember when I was that young. I wasn't any of those things. Except young, I mean.

Photo credit: Hanrahan (yahoo news).

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