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Young Arrives, Ready for the Competition

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 19, 2008

VIERA, Fla., Feb. 18 -- Veteran first baseman Dmitri Young arrived at the Washington Nationals' spring training camp on Monday, two days ahead of the official reporting day for position players, and immediately played down the intrigue created by the presence of two accomplished hitters, himself and Nick Johnson, with designs on the starting first base job.

"All that does is bring the best out of the guys in the competition," said Young, who hit .320 and made the all-star team last year after being signed to a non-guaranteed minor league deal in spring training. "Nick is a heck of a competitor and a hell of a first baseman. The guy can swing a mean stick and bring leadership to team, and I bring leadership to the team. When it's all said and done, somebody is going to be wanted.

"Naturally, we both expect to start, and whatever the manager decides, that's up to him. We'll cross that bridge once we get to it."

Young's value to the team goes beyond his performance on the field. He has also been tabbed as a mentor to newly acquired outfielder Elijah Dukes, who has a history of off-field trouble. Young said he has been in constant touch with Dukes, whom he expected to arrive in Viera on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"We have the people here [to] help him out, but he's going to have to take advantage of it if he's going to realize his big league dreams," Young said. " . . . He has to clear his mind, set his priorities and come out here and play some ball."

Young, who appears thinner than he was last season, said he began working out three weeks after the season ended. Asked how much weight he lost, he said, "Enough."

An Offer for O. Perez

The Nationals have made a contract offer to free agent left-handed pitcher Odalis Pérez, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the matter, and were waiting for Pérez to decide between their offer and one from the Boston Red Sox.

Pérez, 30, was 8-11 with a 5.57 ERA in 26 starts last season for the Kansas City Royals, and is 66-70 with a 4.47 ERA in parts of nine big league seasons. The Nationals envision him as providing depth for their youthful starting rotation. . . .

Right-hander John Patterson, who is coming off September elbow surgery, threw his first official bullpen session of the spring, eight minutes in length.

"I didn't throw my curve as well as I wanted, but everything else looked good," he said. "Mechanically, I feel good. My arm feels really good." . . .

Among the other position players who arrived Monday were outfielders Austin Kearns and Ryan Langerhans. The first full-squad workout is scheduled for Friday.

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