By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 24, 2008
VIERA, Fla., Feb. 23 -- Bret Boone, the previously retired, soon-to-be-39-year-old, former all-star second baseman signed by the Washington Nationals to a non-guaranteed minor league contract five days ago, was promoted to the team's big league camp Saturday.
"We didn't think he'd be this far advanced" in his conditioning and baseball skills, said General Manager Jim Bowden, who watched Boone work out Friday. "And certainly, he can compete with the players in this camp. . . . We have a small window to make a decision here, so it's more valuable to have our asset here than it is to wait and stall his progress."
During Saturday's infield drills, Boone stood in at second base, along with incumbent starter Ronnie Belliard, while Felipe Lopez -- who is considered a candidate to start at either middle infield position -- worked out at shortstop along with Cristian Guzman. Boone has said he is not interested in switching positions or playing in the minor leagues.
"Obviously, if this is going to work and I'm going to go out and play for another year or two years," he said, "this is not going to be normal spring training."P¿rez Predicting a Good Year
Veteran left-hander Odalis P¿rez, who signed a minor league contract with the Nationals this week, said he chose the Nationals over the Boston Red Sox in order to have the best opportunity to pitch in the majors this season.
"I understand Boston is a winning team, but at the same time I just wanted to get an opportunity to come back to the big leagues," he said. "I've been working my tail off the last two and a half months. The way I feel . . . I will say this is going to be one of my best years in the big leagues."
Perez, who made $7.75 million last season with the Kansas City Royals, will earn only $850,000 this season (plus incentive bonuses based on games started) if he makes the Nationals' roster.Hill Happy With Fastball
Right-hander Shawn Hill, who is returning from surgeries to his left shoulder and right elbow, was among the Nationals pitchers who threw live batting practice Saturday, and his performance drew raves from the hitters he faced.
"My fastball, I was very happy with," Hill said. "My off-speed stuff, it's there and not there. If we were talking [on] March 25, I wouldn't be happy at all. But being [so early], I'm happy where it's at." . . .
Manager Manny Acta said he expects neither of the team's top two catchers, veterans Johnny Estrada (elbow) and Paul Lo Duca (knee), to be ready to play when exhibition games begin Thursday.