Nationals Notebook

Wily Mo Peña Is Placed on Waivers

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 29, 2009

VIERA, Fla., March 28 -- Unable to develop into the power-hitting threat the Washington Nationals once envisioned, outfielder Wily Mo Peña on Saturday was placed on waivers, giving him the green light to find a new team.

Peña, 27, will likely clear waivers because it is unlikely that any team will want to assume his guaranteed $2 million contract. If Peña clears waivers, he can either report to Class AAA Syracuse or opt for free agency. Either way, Peña will receive his $2 million -- a salary that stands as a vestige of potential he never fulfilled.

In 2008, his first full season with the Nationals, Peña battled a shoulder injury and hit .205 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 195 at-bats. His shortcomings were just as obvious as his physical prowess: Peña struggled with defense and never learned to hit breaking balls.

When Peña received the word Saturday morning, he cruised through the clubhouse, sharing quick goodbyes with teammates, and departed without comment to the media.

Young Officially on Board

It was a move the Nationals had to make. It was also a move, acting general manager Mike Rizzo said, that they wanted to make. Honoring a handshake agreement reached earlier this winter when Jim Bowden was general manager, the Nationals added Dmitri Young to the 40-man roster. The first baseman has not participated in an exhibition game since March 1 because of back problems, an absence that makes his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster "less than 50-50," Rizzo said.

Rizzo acknowledged the pre-existing agreement but also emphasized Young's value as a hitter -- provided he continues to work himself back into playing shape. This week, Young has been participating in minor league games.

"This guy has something to contribute to us on the major league level," Rizzo said. "Let's not forget what he can do with the bat. He's a guy that I believe can fall out of bed and hit."

Young takes Peña's spot on the 40-man roster. Asked if he expects to start the season on the 25-man roster, Young said: "Oh, most definitely. I set my goals high."

Dominican Update

During the team's off day Thursday, Rizzo and President Stan Kasten took a one-day trip to Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, to supervise progress on the team's new baseball facility and meet with staff and players. Kasten said the availability of Carlos Alvarez, the prospect previously known as Esmailyn González, remains in doubt.

"There is still a chance he winds up playing [in the United States]," Kasten said. "It would need to be soon, and so I wouldn't rule that out at all. But things have to happen first." . . .

The Nationals reassigned nonroster invitees José Castillo, an infielder, and Corey Patterson, an outfielder, to minor league camp. Catcher Javier Valentin declined the reassignment and became a free agent.

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