VIERA, Fla., Feb. 25 -- Jesus Flores is 22 and has not played above the Class A level. Yet there is an excellent chance that come Opening Day, he will be a Washington National.
"I think I can do it," Flores said Sunday. "I feel sure of myself."
Flores is in position to be rushed into a spot as Brian Schneider's backup at catcher because of the intricacies of baseball's rules. He was left off the New York Mets' 40-man roster last offseason, and the Nationals selected him in December's Rule 5 draft. To keep him, he must be on the major league roster all season. If the club decides it would like to send Flores to the minors, it first has to offer him back to the Mets, who would almost certainly snap him up.
The thinking, though, is that because the Nationals are a few seasons from competing for a division title, they should stockpile young talent like Flores.
"Let's face it: We're talking about building this franchise from the ground up," Manager Manny Acta said. "It would be very nice if we could keep this guy next year and make him part of our farm system if he doesn't show everybody that he's ready to stay as a backup here again."
Acta said the coaching staff was "impressed" with Flores, a fine defender with the potential to hit for power. Last year, playing at Class A St. Lucie, he hit .266 with 21 homers and 70 RBI in 120 games.
Everybody Gets a TurnActa said right-hander Shawn Hill will start the first Grapefruit League game Friday in Vero Beach against the Dodgers. But the competition for the four open spots in the rotation will begin Tuesday, when the club will play the first of two intrasquad games.
Right-hander Joel Hanrahan will oppose lefty Matt Chico Tuesday, while Beltran Perez, Jason Bergmann, Josh Hall, Winston Abreu, Jesus Colome, Brett Campbell and Eduardo Valdez will also see action. Wednesday, Jerome Williams will face Tim Redding to start, with Jason Simontacchi, Colby Lewis, Mike Bacsik, Chris Booker, Mike Hinckley, Anastacio Martinez and Jermaine Van Buren also pitching.
John Patterson is set to start the second game Saturday. Starters will throw two innings or 45 pitches, whichever comes first. . . . Shortstop Cristian Guzman took the day off from throwing, part of the plan to bring him back slowly from shoulder surgery. "We want him ready Opening Day, and I think he will be," General Manager Jim Bowden said.
A Rough Ride
Teddy Roosevelt, the only one of the four 10-foot tall racing presidents from RFK Stadium to go winless in 2006, appeared at Sunday's workout. He greeted fans and appeared to be training for the upcoming season.