Bowden's Contract Extended

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 10, 2006

VIERA, Fla., March 9 -- The Washington Nationals extended the contract of General Manager Jim Bowden through the end of the season on Thursday, a move made at least in part because team president Tony Tavares believes even if a new ownership group is named by the end of this month, it likely won't be completely in place until July.

"By the time you get through the actual closing -- the lawyers beating up the documents back and forth, the new owner getting his financing together, just all the types of things that you go through when you're purchasing a business," Tavares said, "you're probably looking at the earliest the end of May, probably as late as the all-star break, to actually take control."

Bowden did not return calls seeking comment.

The timing of the announcement, just two days after the D.C. Council and Major League Baseball finalized a lease agreement on a new stadium in the District, is interesting considering the impending sale of the team. The new owner will inherit Bowden's contract, which runs through October. But Tavares said MLB President Robert DuPuy signed off on the deal.

Tavares said a new owner would be best served keeping Bowden in place.

"I've seen managers replaced during the middle of a season," Tavares said. "I've seen GMs replaced during the middle of a season. But usually, it's because of a built-up kind of disappointment on the part of an owner. If you're just getting to know people, to get disappointed that quick, there would clearly be something wrong with the new owner."

Bowden, 44, was hired by MLB in November 2004, just more than a month after the Montreal Expos moved to Washington. He helped assemble the club that went 50-31 in the first half of the season, seizing first place in the National League East before collapsing after the all-star break and finishing last at 81-81.

His tenure, though, could be defined by the resolution of the Nationals' most compelling subplot this spring: whether newcomer Alfonso Soriano, acquired in a trade for Brad Wilkerson and two other players, will accept a move to the outfield. Soriano, who has refused the switch thus far, is playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

Eleven Sent Down

The Nationals made their first round of cuts, sending 11 players to minor league camp and optioning two prime prospects -- left-hander Mike Hinckley and first baseman Larry Broadway -- to the minors.

Hinckley, 23, battled arm trouble last year and went 3-9 with a 4.93 ERA for Class A Potomac, where he will start this season.

Broadway, 25, hit .269 with 12 homers and 24 RBI last year with Class AA Harrisburg after suffering injuries when he began the year at Class AAA New Orleans. Bowden said Broadway could help the major league club this year.

"We have a lot of respect for what he can do here," Bowden said.

Mistake-Prone 12 The number of errors the Nationals committed in four losses over the past three days. The team is now 1-8-1, the worst record in the 18-team Grapefruit League. Up Next vs. Astros in Kissimmee, 1 p.m.

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