Nationals Notebook

Casto Will Be Tough To Cut

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 24, 2007

VIERA, Fla., March 23 -- The easy move for the Washington Nationals would be to keep outfielders Ryan Church and Chris Snelling and send Kory Casto, their two-time minor league player of the year, to Class AAA Columbus to start the season.

But Casto is putting on such a performance this spring that he has Nationals executives reconsidering every option. Casto went 2 for 2 with two RBI in Friday's 10-4 win over Detroit -- Washington's fifth straight victory -- to raise his average to .367 and his on-base percentage to .472.

Casto has options remaining, so unlike Church and Snelling, he could be sent to the minors without risk of losing him to another team. But there are indications that the Nationals are at least considering taking an 11-man pitching staff to start the season in order to make room for Casto.

"We're fine either way," Manager Manny Acta said. "If he doesn't make this club, we can always go grab him a week, two weeks, a month later. He's going to be there."

Relievers Saul Rivera and Chris Booker likely would be sent down in such a scenario.

Simontacchi Ailing

Right-hander Jason Simontacchi did not throw a bullpen session as scheduled Friday, and there is further concern that his strained groin muscle will prevent him from being ready for his first turn in the rotation during the regular season.

"I just think that if he's not able to make a start before the season starts, it's going to be tough for him to start with us," Acta said.

That juggles the rotation over the weekend. Shawn Hill will make his scheduled start Saturday against St. Louis, with lefty Matt Chico now going Sunday against Atlanta.

Simontacchi, though, said he had "no doubt in my mind" that he'd be ready by Opening Day. "He's very optimistic about it," Acta said. "But we've got to see it."

Fehr Visits

The club held its annual meeting with representatives of the players' association, including union head Donald Fehr. With a new, five-year collective bargaining deal in place, the meeting was basic. "It was just a reminder that we should show the owners that we're united and we're here to do the right thing both for us and for baseball," player representative John Patterson said. . . .

Snelling suffered a bruised left knee in a collision with Tigers catcher Steve Torrealba and was removed from the game as a precaution.

Tuna Meets The Tiger Former NFL coach Bill Parcells, recently retired from the Dallas Cowboys, sat with Tigers Manager Jim Leyland just outside the Detroit dugout. Up Next vs. Cardinals at Viera, 1 p.m.

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