This offseason, new general manager Jim Bowden signed free-agent shortstop Cristian Guzman and third baseman Vinny Castilla and traded for talented but volatile outfielder Jose Guillen.
They'll join an offense that includes three-time All Star second baseman
Jose Vidro and left fielder Brad Wilkerson, who hit 32 homers in 2004.
Workhorse Livan Hernandez, one of baseball's most durable pitchers, leads
the starting rotation. Behind him, however, the Nationals have enigmatic
right-hander Esteban Loaiza, injured Tony Armas and three other starters
coming off injury-shortened seasons: Zach Day, Tomo Ohka and John Patterson.
At least the pitchers aren't too concerned about playing at RFK Stadium,
which hasn't hosted a regular-season baseball game since the Washington
Senators left for Texas after the 1971 season.
Robinson said RFK won't be much different from what it was when he visited
there with the Orioles in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"If you don't make your pitches, it's going to hurt you. If you make your
pitches, you are going to get hitters out," Robinson said. "It's a good
ballpark. It's a fair ballpark."
Robinson, who turns 70 in August, hasn't talked much to his players about
his own experiences at RFK. If he did, though, they would listen.
"He knows a lot," said closer Chad Cordero, 23, who anchors a strong
bullpen. "He has confidence in guys, too, whether it's a young guy coming up
or an older guy. ... He'll stick with them. That helps a player a lot. It
helps you try that much harder."
Robinson won't predict how the Nationals will fare in a difficult NL East
that includes the powerful Atlanta Braves, the Florida Marlins, the
Philadelphia Phillies and an improved New York Mets.
But he vows his team will play hard for its new fan base.
"The mood itself is more upbeat, now that we are looking forward to
something, and that something is Washington, D.C.," Robinson said. "[The fans]
are talking about how eager they are for the season to start, and the players
feed off of that.
"And now they are very excited about it and are eager to get to Washington
to get started."