Major ups to my man Dave Nichols from Nationals News Network for asking the question I really wanted to see asked: (paraphrasing) What do you know about Jesus Flores?
If Pudge is getting two years and $6 million in large part to help guide Flo into greatness, I would hope he's at least familiar with his soon-to-be protege. Pudge was well prepped for that one and handled it fairly well. I didn't expect a full breakdown of strengths and weaknesses.
My pal Mark Zuckerman of the Washington Times (for now and hopefully a long time but who knows?) posted a list of questions before the presser that was pretty good. I'm copying those questions and giving my thoughts on the answers received. Feel free to add comments if you disagree (or agree).
1. Why is Pudge willing to accept a backup/part-time role when he's been a starter his entire life? Will he be content to watch from the bench once Jesus Flores is healthy? Doesn't sound like he is, he said "everyday" a lot during this thing. He said he can't go 162 games (duh) but never said anything like "At my age, I better keep it around 80." He at least gave me an idea for my new poll: Who catches more in 2010, Pudge or Flo? I'll bet anything that Pudge votes Pudge.
2. What does Rodriguez already know about the Nats' young pitching staff? Can he rattle off names like Lannan, Detwiler and Stammen, or does he still have no idea who those guys are? Well-prepped again was Mr. Pudge, though I'm not sure he could pick any of them out of a lineup. He did at least seem to know they existed.
3. What exactly is Flores' status? Does the club truly believe he'll be ready for spring training, or is there legitimate concern he won't? All is well, we're told. Will be ready for the start of spring training, which means he's ahead of schedule. Not so sure I buy all that, pardon me for being a bit jaundiced about injuries and the Nats. Assuming he is A-OK, I'm quite fine with him playing a bit less than the normal frontline guy and Pudge playing a bit more than the normal backup. Save a little wear and tear on Flo, never a bad thing.
But, again, my big takeaway from watching today is the word "backup" is not in Pudge's mind. Not sure it's in others' minds either. I found it interesting that Mike Rizzo said he was most certainly using Pudge's presence as a lure for free agent pitchers. Good idea - though I'm not sure a backup catcher is that much of a lure.
Unless he isn't the backup.
This whole thing makes for an interesting spring training story line, as if there weren't enough already:
*How's Cristian Guzman adjusting to 2B?
*Is Drew Storen going to stick?
*Is Stephen Strasburg going to stick?
*Will Javier Vasquez start the opener (once he's acquired for Willingham)?
*Who plays left once Willingham is traded, Justin Maxwell or Roger Bernadina?
*Pudge or Flo? Who's No. 1?