Nationals Manager Manny Acta Says There's Been No Contact With Odalis Pérez

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

VIERA, Fla., Feb. 17 -- The Washington Nationals thought they were getting a pitcher. Instead, they've gotten a problem. Manager Manny Acta said Tuesday morning that the organization has yet to make contact with absent pitcher Odalis Pérez, who is holding out for a better contract. Pérez's holdout now leaves the sides locked in a game of chicken.

Said Acta, "He's either going to report with enough time or not report at all."

Here are the things the Nats -- and Pérez -- must resolve:

First, the mandatory report date, per arrangements in the current collective bargaining agreement, is Sunday. There is an exception for players who will be competing in the World Baseball Classic; their mandatory report date was Tuesday. Pérez said that he plans to represent the Dominican Republic in the WBC, and that potentially opens the door for Pérez to be in breach of his contract.

But that brings up the second issue.

The Nationals are insisting that Pérez's contract has been signed, sealed and approved. Pérez might have grounds to argue otherwise, though, because his contract does not yet appear in the database of contracts approved by the Major League Baseball Players Association. Pérez wants to improve on the non-guaranteed minor league deal he signed with Washington almost two weeks ago, and the first way to do that is to argue against the validity of his current deal.

"Well, I can't control whatever he feels or thinks, and that is something that is out of my hands," Acta said. "It's already been public that he's under contract, and we are expecting him to honor his contract."

For the moment, the Nationals are going ahead without the 31-year-old lefty, who was last year's Opening Day starter. Without Pérez in the mix for one of the last two starting rotation spots, the Nationals will pick from a group that includes Jordan Zimmermann, Collin Balester and Shawn Hill. They would also have the option of signing another veteran.

"I still think that our rotation is better than what it was the last few years," Acta said. "I'm happy with our first three guys, and I'm happy with the choices I have for the back end of our rotation. If a veteran comes in it would always be welcome, as long as it's going to help."

Question Everything

There is a certain category of questions about who is on the roster and who isn't that is the foundation of spring training journalism. Acta doesn't much appreciate these queries, but he's given at least a few hints. Tuesday, he admitted that much of the lineup is fluid -- except for the No. 3 and No. 4 spots: Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn. And then there's the bullpen, where Acta suggested that only two have strangleholds on jobs: Saúl Rivera and Joel Hanrahan. . . .

Matt Chico threw in the bullpen Tuesday morning, a light 30-pitch workout.

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