Q&A with Nick Manno, Part 1

"Desmond is still only 20 years old."

The 2006 season has had its ups and downs in the Nationals minor league system. Some players have vastly overachieved while others have yet to meet their potential. CapitolDugout.com recently sat down with the Nationals Assistant Director, Player Development, Nick Manno for an in-depth interview to discuss the state of the farm system.

CapitolDugout.com: First of all, what are your overall thoughts on the development of the farm system so far this season?

Nick Manno: Even though our record is not where we want it to be, I think we have accomplished some things this season so far. Potomac fought for a playoff spot until the end of the first half and again are battling and New Orleans is over .500 despite losing just about their entire bullpen to the big league team. Although it is unfortunate that we have been hit with so many injuries at the big league level, it has been a chance for a lot of minor league players to get called up and we are really proud of the job they have done in DC when they have gotten the opportunity.

CapitolDugout.com: Josh Whitesell is really putting together a strong season in Double-A.  What are your thoughts on what type of player he figures to be and is his performance on par for what is expected of him?

Nick Manno:  Josh is having a good offensive season and has really come on of late, which happens a lot of times for hitters when they move to the next level. A lot of times they struggle during the first half and once they are able to make adjustments come on strong as the season ends. He has worked hard defensively, but needs to continue that through the rest of the season and into the off-season.

CapitolDugout.com:  What player, in your opinion, has been the most pleasant surprise this season?  In other words, who has developed perhaps ahead of schedule or expectations?

Nick Manno:  I certainly wouldn't call these guys surprises, but we have definitely been happy with the progress of guys like Edgardo Baez, Rogearvin Bernadina, and Craig Stammen who have done all a good job this year.

CapitolDugout.com:  Ian Desmond has had his share of struggles this season.  In your opinion, what do you feel he needs to do to overcome those problems at the plate and do you still believe he can become a productive big league bat?

Nick Manno:  Ian has been doing fine and has started swinging the bat much better of late. Our hitting coach in Potomac, Troy Gingrich, has worked hard with Ian to keep him more consistent at the plate.  The organization definitely feels that he could still hit at the Major League level, it's just going to take some time. He is still only 20 years old.

CapitolDugout.com:  When I spoke to you last, you showed a lot of faith in Rogearvin Bernadina and it appears that he is beginning to tap into his great talent.  What are your thoughts on what he's done this season and what has been key in his development?

Nick Manno:  We have been very pleased with Bernie's progress this year. We felt it was important to challenge him this year and he has responded well. He is maturing both mentally and physically and hopefully he keeps going.

CapitolDugout.com:  Clint Everts' velocity has been down this season coming off his arm surgery.  Do you think it will be a matter of time before that velocity bounces back and how has he looked in his first full season back?

Nick Manno:  The rate at which velocity comes back is different for everyone. Clint is still growing and maturing physically so it may be that it is just taking him a little longer to regain his full arm strength.  We still feel that it will come back, we just need to be patient.

CapitolDugout.com:  Collin Balester came into this season with high expectations but has had some struggles this the year, despite coming on off late.  What do you attribute those struggles to?

Nick Manno: I'm definitely not making any excuses for his struggles, but he did battle a stomach virus early in the year that never held him back, but there were times when he didn't feel 100%.  At the same time, he is very young for the league and is still learning about pitching. He has pitched better during the second half of the season and the most important thing for Collin is to finish strong.

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