JUPITER, Fla., March 24 -- The Washington Nationals placed outfielder Alex Escobar on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a strained right quadriceps muscle, making April 9 the first day he'll be eligible to play and, in effect, delaying a decision on whether they can keep him.
Escobar was acquired two days before camp opened in a trade with the Chicago White Sox in which the Nationals gave up minor league outfielder Jerry Owens. He was once the top prospect in the New York Mets' system, but has struggled with injuries -- including a torn anterior cruciate ligament that cost him the 2002 season -- his entire career. He is a .229 hitter in 301 major league at-bats, and had just two hits in 15 at-bats this spring.
Escobar said he believes the injury is a result of the stress fracture he suffered in his right foot last year.
"It's kind of weird," Escobar said. "I've never had it before. It's kind of frustrating, but it's understandable."
Escobar is out of options, so the move allows the Nationals to hold onto him until he gets healthy before deciding whether to place him on the 25-man roster or try to pass him through waivers.
The club also granted catcher Keith Osik his unconditional release, leaving Brian Schneider and Gary Bennett as the only two catchers.
"He's 35 years old, and he couldn't beat out who we have here," General Manager Jim Bowden said. "He should try to hook on with another major league club."
Betemit Stays Put
The Nationals have been informed that Atlanta infielder Wilson Betemit will remain with the Braves, according to a club source. Betemit hit two homers off Tom Glavine of the Mets when Nationals officials Bob Boone and Jose Cardenal saw him earlier in the week. Pokey Reese, another potential backup infielder target for Washington, also appears off the market. He'll be the starting shortstop in Seattle. Thus, the Nationals seem more likely to break camp with the backup infielders they have -- Jamey Carroll, Wil Cordero and, probably, Tony Blanco.