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Nationals Notebook

Blanco, Davis In; Baerga Out?

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 31, 2005; Page D04

VIERA, Fla., March 30 -- Hours before J.J. Davis launched a game-winning home run against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday, Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden stood on the dugout steps at Space Coast Stadium pondering Davis's chances of making the Nationals.

"If he doesn't make this team," Bowden said, "I should resign and go home."

Tony Blanco, right, has yet to play in a major league game, but Nats General Manager Jim Bowden expects that to change soon, saying the 23-year-old infielder is almost assured a spot on the Opening Day roster. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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A few moments earlier, Bowden was asked about infielder Tony Blanco, who is just 23 and hasn't played a game in the big leagues. "If we don't keep Blanco, I should resign and go home," Bowden said, "because then we've totally missed what we're trying to do here."

Thus, Davis and Blanco are all but assured of the final two roster spots on the team, and the odd man out is infielder Carlos Baerga. The team won't make the move official until later this week, because it is still being cautious with third baseman Vinny Castilla's hyperextended left knee. Castilla, however, has been bounding around the clubhouse the past two days, and has repeatedly said he'll be ready to go. He should play Thursday against the Florida Marlins in Jupiter, Fla.

Davis, 26, has arguably been the biggest surprise of spring training. He slugged .806 and hit .419 in 31 spring at-bats. Wednesday, he drilled a fastball from the Braves' Matt Childers over the fence in left-center for the winning run in the bottom of the 11th.

"My confidence level has gone from down here to way up here," Davis said. "I just feel now that the sky's the limit for me. I know I can hit big league pitching. I know I can hit the curveball. The only thing that's going to hold me back is me."

Blanco, a Rule 5 selection from Cincinnati, is hitting .297 and has impressed the front office with his quick hands. Thus, Baerga, who agreed to a minor league deal Feb. 21, will almost certainly lose out. He has hit .235 with just one double, and though he would provide a switch-hitting pinch hitter, team officials believe his tremendous lack of speed would be a deterrent on a club that already isn't fast.

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