Whitney Makes A Powerful Case

Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman discusses his trip to the Super Bowl, admits that he will miss the bouncing stands at RFK and expresses his distaste for Teddy Roosevelt's losing streak. Video by Jonathan Forsythe/washingtonpost.comPhotos: Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

VIERA, Fla., March 10 -- Matt Whitney hit a three-run homer to the opposite field Monday, a shot that temporarily tied the Washington Nationals with the Detroit Tigers in what became a 4-3 loss. It is the kind of power the Nationals expected from Whitney when they selected him in the Rule 5 draft from Cleveland.

Whitney, though, understands the reality of his situation.

"It's not a secret who's here," he said.

Whitney is a first baseman, and veterans Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young already are fighting for the job, with Aaron Boone a capable backup. Rule 5 stipulates that the Nationals must keep Whitney on the major league roster all season if they are to retain his rights.

"It's going to be an uphill battle for him," Manager Manny Acta said. "But we like him."

Thus, Whitney -- who is hitting just .154 -- said his objectives here are multi-faceted.

"It's kind of weird because it's almost like you're trying to make this club here, obviously," he said. "But I'm also playing for other teams if I were to get put on waivers at the end of camp."

Lo Duca Takes Batting Practice

Catcher Paul Lo Duca took batting practice with the rest of the team for the first time Monday. His left knee -- in which he had a torn meniscus surgically repaired in January -- has responded well. He is scheduled to have at-bats in a minor league game Wednesday, and Acta said the target for his first appearance in a Grapefruit League game remains Saturday.

Backup Johnny Estrada, who had been shut down because of tendinitis in his right elbow, played catch. He said he felt good, and he'll throw again Wednesday. . . .

The club signed two former Nationals -- infielder Tony Batista and reliever Chris Booker -- to minor league contracts, according to vice president of player development Bob Boone. They are expected to start the season at Class AAA Columbus, Boone said. . . .

Young played three innings in the field and went 2 for 2 with a walk in a minor league game Monday. Young, whose strained left side has prevented him from appearing in a Grapefruit League game, could do so Thursday, Acta said.

Asked if he would have enough time to prepare for the season, Young said, "I can be ready in four or five days." . . .

Right-hander Shawn Hill, who received a cortisone shot in his right forearm Friday, will play catch Tuesday. If he feels no pain, he could throw a bullpen session later in the week.

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