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Nationals Extend Bowden's Contract

The Nationals have a crowded infield, though. Washington won't pursue free agent Deivi Cruz, acquired in August from San Francisco. But second baseman Junior Spivey will be recovered from a broken forearm by spring training, and Jamey Carroll served as the team's utility man, hitting .251 with three stolen bases in 303 at-bats. Where does Jackson's addition leave Spivey and Carroll?

"With important roles on the team," Bowden said. "They can all fit -- and that's assuming there are no other injuries or trades."

Three Nationals, including Cruz, were among the first to file for free agency yesterday. Outfielder Preston Wilson, acquired in a July trade with Colorado, and left-handed reliever Joey Eischen officially became free agents on the first day possible. The Nationals will not attempt to re-sign Wilson, and Bowden would like to improve on Eischen as a left-hander in the bullpen, perhaps by pursuing Baltimore's B.J. Ryan.

The Nationals have extended offers to the two free agents they would most like to retain, right-handers Hector Carrasco and Esteban Loaiza. Washington offered Loaiza two years at $4 million a year, and Loaiza's representatives asked for three years at $7 million per. Loaiza went 12-10 with a 3.77 ERA in 217 innings in 2005, when he made $2.9 million.

"We want Esteban to come back here," Bowden said. "He pitched a lot of innings for us. We like him enough that we offered him a raise and two guaranteed years. We'll see."

Nationals Note: The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network has signed another cable distributor to broadcast the team's games during the 2006 season: Charter Communications Inc. MASN, which is majority owned by the Baltimore Orioles, has signed up several cable operators in the region to carry Nationals games, but has been unable to get wide distribution because it is being sued by cable giant Comcast. A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge has ruled against Comcast in the lawsuit, but an appeal is pending.

Staff writer Thomas Heath contributed to this report.

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