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Nationals Rekindle Interest in a Pitcher

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2005; Page D02

In the wake of Odalis Perez's signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Washington Nationals seemed content to go to spring training with the starting rotation they used last year. But over the last week, there have been indications that those thoughts are changing.

General Manager Jim Bowden pushed to try to land free agent pitcher Shawn Estes, offering a two-year deal before Estes appeared on the verge last night of signing a one-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. So Bowden is now turning to a target once thought to be off the Nationals' wish list -- right-hander Esteban Loaiza.

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Bowden's talks with Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, were all but dormant as the Nationals pursued Perez, who proved too expensive, signing with the Dodgers for three years and $24 million. Boggs said yesterday that Washington is one of four teams -- two in the American League -- still interested in Loaiza, who began 2004 with the Chicago White Sox but was traded to the New York Yankees in midseason. Loaiza, 33, went 10-7 with a 5.70 ERA in 183 innings between the teams.

"There's a distinct possibility of [Loaiza] going to Washington," Boggs said. "There's definitely a chance. He seems to be the one guy that is still standing here."

Bowden preferred Perez, 27, over Loaiza at least in part because of the difference in age. But the Nationals' interest in both Loaiza and Estes indicates that they are willing to take a risk in the name of adding depth to their starting staff. Washington's current rotation -- likely Livan Hernandez, Tony Armas Jr., Tomo Ohka, Zach Day and John Patterson -- went 25-43 with a 4.01 ERA last year.

Estes, who lives 10 minutes from the Diamondbacks' home field in Phoenix, went 15-8 with a 5.84 ERA for Colorado last season -- the highest ERA among pitchers who threw at least 200 innings. The Nationals still offered him a two-year deal worth somewhere in the $6 million to $7 million range, a baseball source said, because team officials are worried about depth in the rotation.

Estes, who will turn 32 next month, has two children under age 2 and preferred to pitch near his Arizona home. The Diamondbacks' deal was for between $2.5 million and $3 million, less than either the Nationals or the San Diego Padres (one year plus an option) had offered, according to Estes' agent, David Meier.

In other news, the Nationals sent out about 5,000 e-mails to those people who put down $300 deposits on season tickets. Those people, who represent more than 16,400 potential season ticket holders, will soon find out where their seats are at RFK Stadium and have until Feb. 4 to pay the balance of their accounts.

O's Trail in Race for Delgado

The Baltimore Orioles trail the Florida Marlins, Texas Rangers and New York Mets in bidding for first baseman Carlos Delgado. According to an industry source, the Orioles made an offer to Delgado in mid-December and have not made another. That offer, believed to be three years, $30 million, is less than what the other teams offered. The sides spoke briefly yesterday morning, and no other talks have been scheduled.

Johnson Gets a Bit Physical

Randy Johnson was involved in an altercation with a TV cameraman after he left his Manhattan hotel on the way to his physical for the New York Yankees. Johnson, who was accompanied by Jerry Laveroni, the director of team security, blocked a camera from WCBS-TV with his arm and made contact with the camera, station spokeswoman Audrey Pass said.

"Get out of my face, that's all I ask," Johnson said, according to a video of what occurred, which was posted on the station's Web site.

"No cameras," Laveroni said.

"Don't get in my face," Johnson said. "I don't care who you are. Don't get in my face."

Johnson issued a statement saying he was "very sorry" the incident occurred. "I hope that everyone will understand that the past few days have been a bit overwhelming and I wish I had handled the situation differently."

Staff writer Jorge Arangure Jr. and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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