The Washington Nationals completed what they believe to be a significant deal, signing fourth-round draft pick Justin Maxwell, an outfielder from the University of Maryland who the Nationals believe has first-round ability, but fell in the draft because of a history of injuries.
"We thought that the success of our draft was predicated on signing Jason," General Manager Jim Bowden said by phone yesterday. "We feel like we added another great person, and a great athlete, to join [first-round pick] Ryan Zimmerman. They're both local kids, and they're both great character guys, and they're the kind of people we want to build the organization around."
Maxwell hasn't played since February because he broke a bone in his hand during batting practice in College Park. In three seasons with the Terrapins, he hit .299 with 20 doubles, 16 homers, 71 RBI and 24 stolen bases in 103 games. An All-Met at Sherwood High, Maxwell, 21, said he was ecstatic to have a deal done with his local team.
"I've been following them since they were talking about the Expos moving from Montreal," Maxwell said. "So when I found out that's who took me, I was excited. I'm just glad to have this done."
Maxwell's list of injuries includes wrist and forearm problems. But he said he has had a clean bill of health since the middle of the summer. Bowden said Maxwell will report to an accelerated program for promising younger players prior to spring training, then likely begin the year at Class A Potomac.
Meanwhile, rookie right-hander Jason Bergmann underwent surgery to remove loose bodies from his right elbow yesterday, and club officials said he should be ready for spring training.
Also, the Nationals announced game times for their home schedule. Weeknights and Saturdays will be at 7:05 p.m., and Sundays at 1:05 p.m. The team will host 10 afternoon games on weekdays, beginning with the home opener April 11 against the New York Mets.