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Nationals Notebook

Baerga's Spring Ends Without A Roster Spot

By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 2, 2005; Page D09

VIERA, Fla., April 1 -- Spring training officially ended for infielder Carlos Baerga about 10 hours earlier than it did for the rest of his Washington Nationals teammates.

In a move that had been foreshadowed for almost a week, Baerga was reassigned to Class AAA New Orleans on Friday morning. Unsure whether he would accept the assignment, Baerga packed his bags and left the clubhouse without a destination.

Carlos Baerga is unsure whether he will accept his reassignment to Class AAA. (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

"I'm disappointed, because I know I can still hit," said Baerga, who hit .235 in 34 at-bats this spring. "I know I can still help any other team. I've never been a big hitter in spring training, but I get going when the season starts."

Baerga said that he planned to go back to his hotel and make some phone calls to see if any other major league team was interested in him. If there is interest, Baerga will decline his assignment. The Nationals would not stand in his way, team officials said.

Even to Baerga, the dismissal hardly qualified as a major surprise. He had been battling for one of the final two roster spots with infielder Tony Blanco and outfielder J.J. Davis, younger players who each hit for a higher average than Baerga during spring training.

What Baerga offered the Nationals, the team had often said, was leadership. But Baerga said that his departure would not leave a void in the locker room.

"It's a good group," Baerga said. "They've got leaders and people who have been around the game for a long time. It's a good locker room here. They'll be okay without me."

Cordero Helps Himself

Chad Cordero, the leading candidate to become Washington's closer, helped his cause Friday with a one-hit ninth inning that preserved a solid start by Zach Day and gave the Nationals a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay.

"It felt good," said Cordero, who converted 14 of 18 save opportunities last season. "Every time you go out, you want to take it like it's the regular season."

Cordero was then asked if he pictured himself as the closer in the Nationals' season opener.

"Oh yeah," he said. "Hopefully, yeah. That would be good to get the call to close the first game for the Nationals, if that's what they want me to do."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company