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Nats Remain Interested In Larkin as a Backup

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 13, 2005; Page D07

The Washington Nationals have continued to talk to free agent shortstop Barry Larkin about possibly accepting a job as a backup infielder with the club, Larkin's agent said yesterday.

Larkin, who will turn 41 in April, hasn't decided if he will play one more season, agent Eric Goldschmidt said. But "at least a dozen" clubs have kept in touch with Larkin about his plans, Goldschmidt said.

The Nationals are interested in adding longtime Reds shortstop Barry Larkin. (Al Behrman - AP)

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"The major priority is to decide if he's going to play or not," Goldschmidt said. "Once he makes that decision, we'll get to the next hurdle and evaluate all the teams that have interest. The baseball schedule will dictate the timetable."

Nationals pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Viera, Fla., on Feb. 15, with position players due Feb. 20. The Nationals, who were interested in adding veteran leadership to an otherwise young roster, made an initial run at Larkin in December, when the 12-time all-star -- who spent his entire 19-year career with the Cincinnati Reds -- was looking for a job as an everyday shortstop. The Nationals signed 26-year-old shortstop Cristian Guzman to a four-year deal in November, and couldn't promise Larkin much playing time.

When it appeared Larkin would go elsewhere, Washington signed veteran Wil Cordero to serve as a backup first baseman and pinch hitter -- as well as a leader. Cordero filled that role during a stint with the Expos in 2002-03. Interim general manager Jim Bowden also said that new third baseman Vinny Castilla, 37, will be a good guide for younger players.

But Bowden's relationship with Larkin is long, dating from Bowden's time as the Reds' general manager from 1992 to 2003. Larkin, who has won three Gold Gloves and was the 1995 National League MVP, hit .289 with eight homers and 44 runs batted in last year.

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