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NATIONALS NOTEBOOK

GM Bowden Has His Say On the Future

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By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 11, 2008

NEW YORK, Sept. 10 -- There are but two positions in baseball, General Manager Jim Bowden said hours before his team assumed the less desirable of those positions. In the dog race of the baseball season -- Bowden's metaphor -- "the view is the same for all [teams] except the front dog," Bowden said. "And we're all just trying to be the front dog, so we don't have to look at that view. That view smells."

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Right now, the Nationals have a view they don't want -- and the team's final game at Shea Stadium against New York on Thursday placed that in sharp relief. It also had Bowden talking about what his team needs for the future.

In an interview conducted before the game, Bowden expressed happiness with his core group of young players -- Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge and Ryan Zimmerman -- and a desire to upgrade at first base. He also offered support for Manny Acta, saying that his second-year manager will become a winner "once he gets the horses."

"I'm a big supporter of Manny," Bowden said. "I think Manny has done an excellent job with this team. He stayed positive through the most difficult times. It's hard to do. Like all of us that are young in the game, he continues to develop."

Asked specifically if Acta will return in 2009 -- he is under contract to do so -- Bowden said: "He's the manager. Stan [Kasten] is the president, I'm the GM, he's the manager -- and that's what it is until they announce something different for any of us."

Bowden said that his team should not go into 2009 with Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young -- both of whom have spent this year either injured or unable to perform -- as its lone options at first base.

"You hope that players come back from injury, and certainly we believe based on all the medical and doctors' reports on both players that there is good reason to be optimistic that both of them will be ready to be healthy next year," Bowden said. "But certainly you can never count on any one player ever being back. We always look at opportunities to get better."

Flores Is Still Sore

Several days ago, Jesús Flores thought he would be ready to play by the weekend, when Washington begins a series against Florida. A still painful and swollen left ankle, the result of a Sept. 2 collision at home plate, have forced him to curb those expectations. Flores offered no promises about his return Wednesday, saying only that he hoped to take batting practice tomorrow or Saturday.

When he throws, even stepping forward, landing on his left foot, causes some pain.

"It's gonna take a while," a dejected Flores said. " I can't tell you how much, exactly."

Said Acta: "We don't need to push him for nothing. We're going to wait until the last day of the season if we have to to try to play him, but that's if he's healthy. No reason to push him out there if he's not 100 percent."


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