Nationals Maintain Their Interest in Free Agent Sosa

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Washington Nationals continued their pursuit of free agent slugger Sammy Sosa last night, though it remains unclear whether the seven-time all-star will be willing to come to spring training without a guaranteed contract.

A contingent including Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden was expected to dine with Sosa somewhere in the Miami area, where Sosa makes his offseason home. Bowden declined to discuss the meeting yesterday afternoon.

To this point, the Nationals have been unwilling to guarantee Sosa any money and are merely inquiring whether the 1998 National League MVP would be interested in trying to make the team. The competition for Sosa appears to be scant.

Meanwhile, the Nationals moved forward on two other fronts, including filling the final spot of their coaching staff. They are scheduled to meet today with former all-star closer John Wetteland about becoming the bullpen coach.

Wetteland, 39, retired from a 12-year career following the 2000 season. He has worked as an assistant in the Texas organization in various capacities since 2002.

Should he accept an offer, Wetteland would replace Bob Natal , one of five coaches fired after the 2005 season. All of the others already have been replaced.

The Nationals also appear close to signing two veterans -- right-hander Felix Rodriguez and first baseman Daryle Ward -- to non-guaranteed minor league deals, giving them an opportunity to make the team in spring training.

Rodriguez, 33, is a 10-year veteran who made 34 appearances with the New York Yankees in 2005, when he spent time on the disabled list with knee problems. He had no decisions to go along with a 5.01 ERA. He has spent time with six teams, compiling a 37-25 record with a 3.51 ERA. He will serve as insurance for the bullpen.

Ward, 31, has spent eight seasons in the majors, the last two with Pittsburgh. He hit .260 with 12 homers and 63 RBI for the Pirates last year, when he appeared in 133 games, many as a left-handed pinch hitter. Ward can play the outfield, and is a .259 hitter with 76 homers in 1,892 major league at-bats.

-- Barry Svrluga

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