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Nats Dealing With Loaiza

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 12, 2005; Page D03

Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden spoke twice yesterday with the agent for free agent pitcher Esteban Loaiza, and the team could know whether it will land the pitcher within the next few days.

"I think it's something we'll find out soon," Bowden said.

The Nationals would like to land free agent starter Esteban Loaiza. (Bill Kostroun - AP)

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He declined to comment on the specifics of the negotiations, but an industry source said it was unlikely the Nationals would offer more than a one-year contract. Loaiza is seeking a two-year deal.

"That, ultimately, is what's going to get our attention," said agent John Boggs. "I don't think Washington is going to be in position to go there, but it still could be a good fit -- even for one year."

Absent a two-year offer, Loaiza will have several other factors to consider. Two industry sources said the Texas Rangers are also involved in discussions about Loaiza, who lives in Southlake, Tex., not far from the club's Arlington home.

Loaiza, 33, split time between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees last year, posting an 8.50 ERA with New York, where he was banished to the bullpen. But the Nationals' willingness to consider him stems largely from his 21-win season in 2003 with the White Sox, when he finished second in the American League Cy Young Award voting.

The Nationals are also staying in touch with the Colorado Rockies about a potential trade for pitcher Shawn Chacon, who struggled last year as a closer. Bowden, who took his job in November, is reluctant to trade prospects he hasn't had the chance to evaluate in person, so any trade for Chacon would likely wait until well into spring training.

The Nationals have also contacted San Diego about pitcher Brian Lawrence, a source said. Lawrence went 15-14 with a 4.12 ERA for the Padres in 2004.

Whoever's on the roster, the Nationals are tentatively scheduled to play five nationally televised games on Fox, another indication that the team's profile will be higher than it was in its final season in Montreal. Last season, the Expos didn't appear on a single Fox broadcast.

Though Fox hasn't finalized its schedule -- the network will broadcast a game of the week each Saturday beginning May 21 -- the Nationals' Web site shows four games on Fox: July 9 at Philadelphia, July 30 at Florida, Aug. 27 at home against St. Louis and Sept. 10 at home against Atlanta. Dan Bell, Fox's vice president of communications for sports, said the June 18 game at Texas is under consideration.

"Nothing against the city of Montreal, but any time you can add a team to the eighth-largest television market and factor in those ratings that that market can produce, it's a plus," Bell said.

The Nationals have also announced tentative times for their home games, which are typically 7:05 p.m. for weekdays and Saturdays. The two Fox home games will be at 1:20, and Sunday home games are scheduled for 1:05.

There are exceptions, however. The team will play four Thursday home games at 1:05 p.m. -- April 21 vs. Atlanta, May 19 vs. Milwaukee, June 30 vs. Pittsburgh and Aug. 25 vs. Cincinnati. It will play two Thursday home games at 4:35 p.m. -- April 27 vs. Philadelphia and Sept. 22 vs. San Francisco. And two games on Monday holidays, Independence Day and Labor Day, will be at 1:05 p.m. -- July 4 vs. the New York Mets and Sept. 5 vs. the Florida Marlins.

Nationals Notes: The team is "hours away" from signing a deal with Clear Channel Communications to broadcast games on the radio, a club source said. The deal is for three years should the team fulfill revenue goals. WTEM will likely be the flagship station. . . . A group from the Major League Baseball Players Association toured RFK Stadium this week, checking on the renovations. Gene Orza, MLBPA's chief operating officer, was on hand with Phil Bradley, a former player and special assistant to MLBPA head Donald Fehr, along with Nationals players Brad Wilkerson and Brian Schneider. . . . The team could announce today that the New York Mets will be the opponent for an April 3 exhibition at RFK, two industry sources said.

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