Team Signs 1 Pick, Waits On Another

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 24, 2006

BALTIMORE, June 23 -- The Washington Nationals signed one of their two first-round picks, right-handed pitcher Colton Willems, on Friday and are still negotiating with their top choice, outfielder Chris Marrero, in hopes of getting Marrero to the minor leagues soon.

Willems, a 6-foot-4, 185-pounder from Fort Pierce, Fla., signed for $1.425 million after the Nationals took him with the 22nd selection in the June 7 draft. The 17-year-old went 7-1 with a 0.68 ERA with 99 walks and eight strikeouts as a senior at John Carroll Catholic High. He has already reported to the team's Gulf Coast League rookie program in Viera, Fla.

That's exactly where the Nationals would like to see Marrero, the 15th selection in the draft. General Manager Jim Bowden continued to negotiate with Marrero's adviser, Greg Genske, on Friday, though the conversations were stalled somewhat because Genske was in Mexico. Marrero, who played third base in high school in Miami, has agreed to move to the outfield when and if he signs with the Nationals.

Bowden said he talked to Marrero after rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman beat the New York Yankees last Sunday on a game-winning home run.

"That can be you in three-and-a-half years," Bowden said he told Marrero. "But it can't be you in three-and-a-half years if you're going to sit at home when we're playing."

Armas Moved to DL

The Nationals knew that because John Patterson returned from the disabled list Friday night they would have to make a roster move to accommodate him. The solution: Rather than sending down a reliever, such as Jason Bergmann, they placed right-hander Tony Armas Jr. on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain.

The move is retroactive to June 20, the day after Armas's last start, and Bowden stressed that there was no change in Armas's health. "The elbow is fine and the shoulder is fine," Bowden said. Thus, Armas resisted the move, and declined to comment. Bowden said the team wanted to protect him. . . .

Right-hander Ramon Ortiz rejoined the team Friday after spending time with his wife, Elizabeth, who has been ill. Ortiz said doctors hadn't determined the extent of his wife's problems, and are performing more tests.

"I'm hoping for the best," Ortiz said.

Rookie left-hander Mike O'Connor will start in Ortiz's place Saturday, and Ortiz said he would be available once in the bullpen over the weekend. He is due to start again Tuesday in Toronto.

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