By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 24, 2008
JUPITER, Fla., March 23 -- Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden sent a clear message Sunday to those players who don't win starting jobs when the club leaves Florida later this week.
"We certainly are going to have compassion for players on this team that are everyday players that are not going to get to play every day [from] the get-go," Bowden said. "I have compassion for that.
"If we could make a move to give them an opportunity to play every day and make our organization better, we'll do it. But we're not going to make a deal that we don't think is going to make our organization better, because we're all about winning. We're all about the team. We're not about individuals."
Infielder Felipe López and first baseman Dmitri Young likely will lose out in position battles to Ronnie Belliard and Nick Johnson, respectively. López said last week he would not be happy as a substitute; Young has largely declined to discuss his competition with Johnson, which has been good-natured.
The Nationals are trying to trade López, though scouts and executives from other teams appear more interested in Belliard, who is cheaper -- $3.5 million for the next two years as opposed to L¿pez's $4.9 million for 2008 -- and performing better. Belliard is hitting .383 this spring, López .231.Dukes Tests Injured Leg
Left fielder Elijah Dukes played all nine innings of the Nationals' 4-2 loss to Florida on Sunday, the toughest test of the right hamstring he strained March 14.
"I'm just trying to ease my way back into it," Dukes said. "I feel it a little bit." . . .
The club reassigned catcher Wil Nieves to minor league camp Sunday, a move that could mean Jesus Flores will serve, at least initially, as Paul Lo Duca's backup. Bowden, speaking before the move, said Johnny Estrada, slated to be the backup, likely will start the year on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis, though he is "very close to being ready."
Flores could spend a week or two in the majors although the club wants him to get a full year as a starter at Class AA Harrisburg.
Lo Duca played six innings Sunday, going 0 for 3. He will catch again Monday, his first time on back-to-back days as he overcomes a torn meniscus in his left knee. . . .
The Nationals retained the rights to outfielder Garrett Guzman, a Rule 5 draft pick, by making a trade with the Minnesota Twins. By July 15, the Nationals will give up either a player to be named or cash. Guzman -- who, by the regulations of the Rule 5 draft, would have had to remain on Washington's major league roster all year if there hadn't been a trade -- will begin the year at Class AAA Columbus, Bowden said. Bowden said he told Guzman he could be a fourth or fifth outfielder in the majors "for a long time."