Questions of National importance

Questions of National importance
January 31, 2012, 2:14 pm
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Nobody reports to spring training without some question, no matter how minor, hanging over his head. Even the sport's best players have some facet of their game that needs to be tweaked, or some off-the-field issue that needs to be resolved.

And that certainly applies to the Nationals, who less than three weeks from the start of camp are beginning to figure out how they're going to address their biggest question marks.

With that in mind, let's run through every player on the Nats' current 40-man roster (minus injured first baseman Chris Marrero and reliever Cole Kimball) and look at the primary question associated with each of them entering spring training...

PITCHERS

SEAN BURNETT: Which version will show up this year: The guy who was awful during the first half of 2011 (5.67 ERA, seven blown saves, five losses) or the guy who bounced back to post a 1.16 ERA and zero blown saves after that?

TYLER CLIPPARD: Can a setup man sustain such a high level of dominance for a third consecutive season?

ROSS DETWILER: After five seasons bouncing up and down, is he finally ready to be a consistent winner at the big-league level?

GIO GONZALEZ: Will the success he enjoyed the last two seasons in Oakland translate to his new home in Washington, especially now that he has the safety net of a five-year contract?

TOM GORZELANNY: Upset when asked to relieve in the past with the Cubs, can he embrace a bullpen role, and more importantly, can he thrive in it?

JOHN LANNAN: After knowing he had a rotation spot the last three springs, how will he handle an open competition with Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler for one of two available starting jobs?

BRAD LIDGE: Were those 25 strong outings late last season with the Phillies confirmation of a healthy arm and an ability to pitch effectively again, or at 35 does he have nothing left in the tank?

RYAN MATTHEUS: Having established he could retire big-league hitters in his first stint, can he now establish his ability to do it over a longer stretch?

YUNESKY MAYA: Will he ever make that 8 million investment even remotely worthwhile?

RYAN PERRY: Will a change of scenery from Detroit to Washington help this right-hander with an electric arm harness his natural ability?

MATT PURKE: In his first professional camp, can the lefty establish both the health of his arm and the likelihood of a fast track to the majors?

HENRY RODRIGUEZ: Can he find a level of consistency to make events like his home finale appearance a regular occurrence?

ATAHUALPA SEVERINO: In a crowded bullpen, can he pitch well enough to force his way into the discussion?

CRAIG STAMMEN: Where does his future lie: As a big-league starter, a big-league long reliever or as Class AAA filler?

DREW STOREN: Can he avoid the drop-off and arm troubles that have plagued so many young closers in the past?

STEPHEN STRASBURG: Can he eliminate the need for anyone to ever reference the words "Tommy John" in his presence again?

CHIEN-MING WANG: After a long, two-year road just to return to the big leagues, is he back to top form again or is it too much to ask for his arm to hold up?

JORDAN ZIMMERMANN: On the heels of a breakthrough season, can he not only sustain that success but ascend to an even higher level?

CATCHERS

JESUS FLORES: Following a solid Winter League season in Venezuela, can he re-establish his ability to hit major-league pitching?

WILSON RAMOS: After his horrific kidnapping in November, will he be able to step back onto the field and pick up where he left off in September?

JHONATAN SOLANO: Unlikely to see much playing time, can he make enough of an impression to convince club officials he can be called upon if needed down the road?

INFIELDERS

MARK DeROSA: Will the wrist injury that plagued him most of the last two seasons prevent him from being a productive big leaguer again, or can he reinvent himself as a veteran contact hitter?

IAN DESMOND: Can he make the necessary adjustments to his offensive game the way he did to his defense game one year ago?

DANNY ESPINOSA: Did he learn from his second-half tailspin, and thus can he become a consistent offensive force now that he has experienced it?

ADAM LaROCHE: Is his surgically repaired shoulder actually 100 percent healthy?

STEVE LOMBARDOZZI: Is his future as an everyday second baseman in the big leagues, or is he at best a utility infielder?

TYLER MOORE: After terrorizing pitchers at Class A and Class AA the last two seasons, can the slugging first baseman keep it up against higher-level competition?

ANTHONY RENDON: Is there any reason to be concerned about his shoulder? And if not, how quickly can he move through the minors?

CARLOS RIVERO: Can the power-hitting, free-swinging infielder make his presence known at spring training and put himself in the mix for a roster spot?

RYAN ZIMMERMAN: Can the Face of the Franchise get a long-term extension worked out before Opening Day? And if not, can he avoid letting his uncertain status become a clubhouse distraction?

OUTFIELDERS

ROGER BERNADINA: Given yet another chance to become a lineup regular, will the talented but inconsistent outfielder finally seize the opportunity?

BRYCE HARPER: Is there anything the 19-year-old stud can do to convince Mike Rizzo to put him on the Opening Day roster?

MICHAEL MORSE: Now that everyone has seen him put up big numbers over a full season, can he do it again?

EURY PEREZ: In big-league camp for the first time, can the speedy center fielder turn some heads and make his case for a September call-up?

JAYSON WERTH: Can he put that underachieving first season in D.C. behind him and be the kind of player and leader the Nationals believed they were getting all along?