Hopes are high in NatsTown

I've been waiting a while to visit with you Nats fans, at least until I could get to Florida and see in person what all the buzz is about with our ballclub this year.

After our initial MASN telecast Wednesday and after spending a few days in camp, I have to admit I'm sharing the optimism I see and hear all around.

First of all, from our TV standpoint, it was great to welcome Rob Dibble to our crew and I'm sure his excellent start Wednesday night will continue into and throughout the season.

We had an excellent in-booth visit with Acting GM Mike Rizzo and talked to John Lannan and Josh Willingham from the dugout via headset. The Nats always cooperate with us on MASN with these interviews; I know we appreciate it and I hope you enjoy hearing from our guys when we can get them on.

It all starts with pitching, and I'm excited about Scott Olsen, cautiously optimistic about Daniel Carbrera and eager to see what youngsters like Lannan, Balester, Martis can do.

It won't be easy for Rizzo, Acta and company to make the right call on Jordan Zimmerman, but you want to make sure you don't rush a great young pitcher to the big leagues.

I know we all want to see him on that Opening Day roster, but we have to trust our brain trust to make the right call both for '09 and the future.

The addition of Joe Beimel to the bullpen gives the Nats not only an effective lefthander, but one who can set things up for 9th-inning save situations. Joe's 2.02 ERA with the Dodgers last year was outstanding, and over three years he's pitched in 216 games with a sparkling 3.04.

I can't emphasize enough how important he can be to our team. "I've got my 8th-inning guy," Manny Acta said right after he announced to the media in Viera that Beimel had signed a free agent deal.

OK, so that's pitching ... next week, I'll address the offense and the lineup.

Between now and then, keep Aaron Boone in your thoughts and prayers. He was a great National and an even better person.