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Nats keep a clinched fist around its cash page 2
Washington's front office is remaining steadfast in not overpaying for marquee free agents.


Date published: 1/11/2007

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"These guys are major league-caliber prospects, especially the left-handed pitcher [Almonte]," said Nationals amateur scouting director Dana Brown, who saw the players during a tryout camp in the Dominican Republic Dec. 17. "He has a chance to pitch in the rotation one day."

As for the near future, the status of the Nationals' rotation remains muddled, though Bowden and manager Manny Acta sounded content to head into spring training with a hodgepodge starting rotation.

"If we have an opportunity, we'll jump on it," Bowden said during a media luncheon yesterday at Lerner Enterprises' Washington Square office building. "But we're not going to sit there and overpay to finish in the same place and then take away from signing the four kids from the Dominican or the five picks we have in the top 70 [in the June First-Year Player Draft."

Bowden said the Nationals remain on the lookout for bargains, and the agent for former Giants and Cubs prospect Jerome Williams confirmed the Nationals have made an offer to the 25-year-old righty, but Washington is more likely to improve by inches than miles.

"Probably one or two more, maybe," Bowden said when he was asked about potential moves.

On the wish list is depth at first base, which could be especially important considering the status of Nick Johnson. Bowden said yesterday that the Nationals' first baseman was likely to miss the start of the season recovering from a broken right femur.

Starting pitching, of course, is also a target, but if the Nats' stand pat, the most likely scenario involves a wide-open race for four spots in the team's starting rotation. Pitchers like Tim Redding, Jason Simontacchi, Colby Lewis and Joel Hanrahan--signed to minor league deals this offseason--will get a shot, as will Mike O'Connor, Beltran Perez, Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann and Billy Traber.

There will be so many pitchers in spring training that Acta already plans to pare the group down by using two starters a day for the first two weeks of games.

And there could be more.

Bowden said minor leaguers like Matt Chico, Garrett Mock and Collin Balester, could be in the mix as well.


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