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[August 3rd] -- Now, I consider myself a pretty savvy baseball guy. I mean, I actually saw Mickey Mantle play at RFK in 1964. I've seen a lot of baseball and I've seen a lot of strange things.

But this?

Borrowing words from Scotty Carson, chief scout of the New York Knights, "Trust me, Judge, the guy's an absolute nobody from nowhere."

And just like Roy Hobbs, Tim Redding has risen from the ash heap of baseball and threatens to become this years Esteban Loiaza, albeit for a shorter period of time.

Redding, 29, hasn't had what you'd call a spectacular career. I'm not even sure you could call what he's accomplished a "career." Though his minor league stats (71-42, 3.90) are pretty impressive, he's never been able to duplicate that effort at the major league level. His one "not really bad" year came in 2003 with the Astros, when he went 10-14, 3.68. Since then, he's been ... well ... pretty bad. He has a 22-36, 4.99 career record with the Astros, Yankees, Padres and Nationals. Redding was signed (along with what then appeared to be the entire male population of North Dakota) last winter after a solid 12-10, 3.40 record with the White Sox 'AAA' affiliate in Charlotte.

He couldn't duplicate those numbers this year in Columbus, however, and I kept his career with the Nationals on "death watch" for most of the summer. Though his 9-5 record was good, his 5.32 ERA was bad even for the International League. When a 29 year old gives up 134 base runners in just 89 innings (1.5 per 9 innings) in a league full of has-beens, he's just not going to get another shot at the major leagues, that is, unless something extraordinary happens.

I'm thinking that having a dozen starting pitchers (or so it seems) on the disables list qualifies as "extraordinary."

In six starts since his promotion, Redding has yet to give up more than three runs in a game. In 37 innings, he's allowed 48 base runners, a much better ratio against guys named Pujols and Rolen and Helton and Holliday and Fielder and Hardy and Soriano and Lee instead of guys like Jose Gonzalez and Jimmy Anderson. Though Redding didn't get the win last night, he struck out eight and walked two while lowering his ERA to 2.43.

How is this possible?

Like I said, you're going to have to help me out here.

Jim Bowden is going to have to make some interesting decisions come this off-season. Let's say that Redding continues to pitch this well for the rest of the year. What will he do? If he doesn't sign him, there is going to be a lot of grousing from the fans, similar to two years ago when Loiaza left for Oakland. And if he does sign him, there is going to be a lot of grousing from fans who will say that signing a 30 year old pitcher "just isn't part of The Plan."

I say sign him - assuming he continues to pitch well, that is. Who's going to be in the rotation net year? I mean, for certain?

-Matt Chico

Who could be in the rotation?

-Shawn Hill (assuming he's healthy)

-Mike O'Connor (assuming he's healthy)

-John Patterson (assuming he's healthy)

-Jason Bergman (assuming he's healthy)

-John Lannan (assuming he's ready

Joel Hanrahan (assuming he earns it)

-Ross Detweiler (assuming the team's hard up)

There is little chance that Jason Simontacchi and Mike Bacsik return (though Bacsik has been impressive recently). So unless the Nationals sign a free agent over the winter (which I doubt will happen), Redding should have an opportunity to be a leader in the rotation. I like Redding because, unlike guys like Bacsik and Simontacchi, he can throw close to 94-95 mph. Unlike guys like Bacsik and Simontacchi, Redding doesn't have to live on the corners, which means he's more apt to have success when he doesn't have his best "stuff."

It won't cost much to keep him, and with the new stadium and new era about to start, I'm guessing he'd like to stay. How much? How long?

Two years, $5 million would be excessive, would it?

Nats Notes: The clock is ticking on Jeff Smoker. Now I understand that the life essence of a team's minor league system are high schoolers, but what Smoker may do to the Nationals is the reason why I prefer college kids. High school players can always leverage a team (read: blackmail) by using the "I'm going to school" justification for more money. Sure, the Nationals will receive a similar pick next year (and Bowden is this evening blustering about not losing anything by not signing Smoker), but it does put "The Plan's" fruition farther down the road.

That said, I agree with Bowden. I want players who want to play baseball, not line their bank accounts. Players like Chad Cordero, Ryan Zimmerman and Chris Marrero are all well respected by Nats' fans because they signed quickly and began playing almost immediately. At some point, we have to say, "if he doesn't want us, we don't want him."

We'll know in a couple of weeks.

Redding doesn't have enough major league service time to become a free agent, I believe. So he'll be an arbitration guy.

Then again, I have no idea how this minor league contract thing works.
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