Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Chris Duncan (right) has started at first base the last two days.
Now 28, Duncan is in Nats camp, trying to make it as a bench player. He's played mostly left and right fields during his big-league career, but he actually came up as a first baseman, only to get moved to the outfield in St. Louis because of some guy named Pujols. The son of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan started yesterday in Kissimmee at first base, and will be back there again today against the Braves.
Defense has never been Duncan's specialty, though he does feel more comfortable at first base. Then again, with Adam Dunn entrenched in the heart of the lineup, there aren't going to be many opportunities to start there.
Really, if Duncan makes the Opening Day roster, it will be because of his ability to hit.
"He gives the manager a little versatility, because he'd be a left-handed bat off the bench that can change the game with one swing of the bat," GM Mike Rizzo said. "That brings value in and of itself."
Here's the question, though: If he's not getting regular at-bats as a position player, can Duncan thrive as a pinch-hitter? The Nats have a plan to try to figure that out this spring. Jim Riggleman said he may have Duncan sit out several games in a row at some point, then send him to the plate late in an exhibition game.
"We need to get a little bit of a read on him to see if he's capable of doing that," the manager said.