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Nationals Have Logjam Up the Middle

López allows, though, that the Nationals face a difficult choice. Guzmán is hitting .356 this spring and said Tuesday he has picked up precisely where he wanted to after an injury-marred 2007. López is hitting just .205.

"It's really tough," he said. "You got Guzie and Belly, their numbers are there. I don't have the average, but I'm hitting the ball and having good at-bats. So whatever happens, I would like to stay here. But I'm not going to be happy on the bench. Hell, no."

Given that stance, López was asked if he would rather have a trade.

"I'm not saying that," he said. "I'm just saying I don't know what's going to happen."

Given the personnel the Nationals have in camp, it wouldn't be surprising if a deal happened either before Opening Night or early in the season. López played second base for just the second time this spring Tuesday because, after camp began, the Nationals signed veteran Bret Boone. Boone is hitting just .189 but has impressed officials with his bat speed and defense, and his appearance in 12 games took time from López at second. Washington also has former Atlanta Brave Pete Orr, an infielder who is hitting .364 this spring and is a capable second baseman, though he has played lots of third this spring.

"At the beginning, the plan was to have Lopey play at both places different days," Acta said. "With Boone in camp, we didn't want to kill Guzie and have Guzie play way too much at short."

Thus, the Nationals have parts to spare in the middle infield. The Chicago Cubs are in the market for a second baseman, though it is widely presumed they eventually will end up with Baltimore's Brian Roberts. Should that deal happen, the Orioles could become a logical trading partner for Washington, and Baltimore has scouted the Nationals heavily this spring.

In declaring his strong preference to start, López did not appear angry. He was, however, insistent.

"I'm just having fun, man -- for real," López said. "I don't even think about competition or whatever. I'm having a lot of fun. The guys are playing hard. I like these guys here. I like what the Nationals got going on."

Apparently, though, only if he's in the lineup.

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