February 2009

Willingham going to Phoenix; Zim's date tentatively set

Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham is scheduled to have his arbitration hearing on Wednesday. He reported to Nationals camp on Monday and flew to Phoenix the next day.

Willingham, who came with left-hander Scott Olsen to Washington in a trade that sent Emilio Bonifacio to the Marlins, asked for $3.6 million, while the team countered with $2.55 million.

As for third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, his arbitration hearing is tentatively scheduled for Saturday. He is asking for $3.9 million, while Washington is countering with $2.75 million. 


Odalis Perez is a no-show in camp

The Nationals had their first Spring Training workout on Monday, but left-hander Odalis Perez was a no-show.

According to ESPN.com, Odalis Perez regrets that he agreed to a Minor League deal with the Nationals and is trying to renegotiate his contract. As of now, if he makes the club, Perez will make $850,000. 

But Nationals manager Jim Bowden said he expects Perez to report to camp soon.

“We have a contract with the player that is approved by the Players Association and the labor relations department,” Bowden said.  “We have a binding agreement. We expect Odalis to be in camp.”

After the workouts, manager Manny Acta said the team was looking for Perez, but didn’t give any indication that something was wrong. Perez has until Sunday to report to work on time or face disciplinary action. 

“We are trying to get a hold of Odalis and find out about him being here,” Acta said. “Up until the 22nd, I’m sure the guy doesn’t want to miss the reporting date. We don’t make a big deal out of it.”

Several messages to Perez’s agent, Martin Arburua, were not returned. Perez told ESPN.com that he plans to play in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic and prove that he is worth more than the contract that was presented to him.

New role for Jason Bergmann

About a minute after throwing his first bullpen session in front of his manager, right-hander Jason Bergmann went to Manny Acta and wanted to know what his role would be for the 2009 season. Acta immediately told Bergmann that he is considered a middle reliever.

The previous two years under Acta, Bergmann was a starter, but he didn’t pitch well in the role last year. He went 2-11 with a 5.09 ERA. 

“He felt that it was better for him because his mental preparation would be better if he knew what he was going for,” Acta said. 

When approached by reporters, Bergmann looked disappointed, but thankful he still has a chance to make the 25-man roster.

“It’s pitching,” Bergmann said. “My goal is to be in the Major Leagues. … There are 30 pitchers and everybody is going for a role on the team. I like to be one of them.”

A new Kory Casto

After months of talking to hitting coach Rick Eckstein, infielder/outfielder Kory Casto decided to change his batting stance in order pull the ball more often.

Before this year, the left-handed-hitting Casto had a tough time going to right field. He stood straight up in the batter’s box with his hands back and most of the balls he hit went to left field. Casto is now in a crouch position with his hands close to his chest. During one hitting session recently, Casto hit most of the balls to right and center field.

“The positioning is now consistent. There is extreme balance,” Eckstein said. “There is a lot of life in the hitting zone. He is able to pull the correctly, but still stay on pitches away and drive them the other way.”

Casto is looking to make the team as a reserve. He can play all three outfield positions as well as first and third base.      

Welcome to my blog

Starting Monday, I will post regular blog entries about the Nationals. Yes, I am an MLBlogger after all these years. In the meantime, check out “The Inbox,” which will be on the website sometime today. I answer several of your questions about the Nationals.