Washington Nationals President Stan Kasten There Is Time for Deals

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 21, 2009

VIERA, Fla., Feb. 20 -- Washington Nationals President Stan Kasten said Friday it was "likely" that his team could add a new face before the end of spring training, a byproduct of the team's surplus at first base and in the outfield.

"I'm sure we're gonna be having talks with everyone," Kasten said. "It's also an extra-long spring training this year, so that means just one more week of that kind of talk among teams and GMs. So it's certainly possible. I don't know that signings will happen; I wouldn't rule it out, but I don't know that is going to happen. But I would expect heavy trade talk between now and Opening Day."

First baseman Nick Johnson, if healthy, represents the most likely trade candidate. Last week's acquisition of Adam Dunn gives the Nationals several possibilities, though. If Johnson plays first base, Dunn will play left field. If Johnson is traded, Dunn can play first, and Washington can settle the corner outfield spots from a mix that includes Elijah Dukes, Josh Willingham and Austin Kearns.

So far in camp, the messages are mixed regarding Dunn's position. When the team broke into positions on Thursday -- outfielders on one field, infielders on another -- Dunn went with the outfielders. But Friday, during a popup/fly-ball drill that included players at every position on the diamond, Dunn was at first base.

In Good Hands

The Nationals led the National League in errors last season. But now, at least three men known for their fielding are working to ensure a turnaround. In addition to new first base coach Marquis Grissom, Washington is using Cesar Cedeño and Devon White as spring instructors for its outfielders. That trio, during their big league careers, collected 16 Gold Gloves.

"I actually was challenging my players to find any team in the big leagues that had three better" outfield coaches, Manager Manny Acta said.

Lastings Milledge, Washington's starting center fielder, stands to benefit most. Last year, Milledge endured a steep learning curve in his first full-time season at the position. Cedeño, White and Grissom all spent the bulk of their careers as center fielders. . . . Top-ranked draft prospect Stephen Strasburg of San Diego State opened his season Friday with 11 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings in a 6-3 victory over Bethune-Cookman in Compton, Calif. He allowed one run (none earned), two walks and three hits. The Nationals own the first pick in this year's draft.

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