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SO FAR, ORTIZ ISN'T THIS YEAR'S ESTEBAN LOAIZA

[March 13] -- There are losses, and then there are losses.

It doesn't really matter that Major League baseball's worst offensive team last year continues to struggle this spring with a .253 team batting average. It's early; the team's offense is better this year and they'll come around.

No, that's not the problem. The problem is that the pitcher destined to be the team's number three starter is getting killed this spring. I'm worried. Apparently, Ortiz is not. "I don't worry about walks, hits, runs. I don't worry about nothing like that," said Ortiz, a free-agent signing. "I have to keep working on my slider and my changeup. I don't worry about anything else."

Well, that's all well and good if that's how the 32 year old typically uses his spring appearances. But from 2003-2005, Ortiz had a 4-2, 4.41 ERA in 65 spring training innings. He's never been this bad. How bad? 0-2, 12.28 ERA, 18 hits and 7 walks in 8 innings bad. He's averaging more than two hits and almost one walk per inning. When you load the bases every inning you pitch, bad things are going to happen. For someone with seven years of major league experience, he shouldn't have to "work" on specific pitches.

And he says it's his slider's fault??

Certainly, Ortiz will get better. He has to; he can't get any worse. But as the team continues to bomb at the plate, and bomb in the field (16 errors in the last 7 games), the shaky starting pitching is looking even worse. In the long run, the offense will be better than last year, but the fielding will be worse. Guys like Matt LeCroy and Wiki Gonzalez are "journeymen" for a reason. The only hope the Nationals have is if, somehow, unexpectedly, guys like Ramon Ortiz have career years.

And based upon the first 13 games, it aint looking too good.


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