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Archive for Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Nats’ Soriano balks

All-Star refuses to play in outfield; Bosox swap Arroyo for Pena

March 21, 2006

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The lineup said Alfonso Soriano was playing left field.

He wasn't.

Soriano refused to play the outfield for the Washington Nationals in what was supposed to be his spring-training debut Monday night, and general manager Jim Bowden said his biggest offseason acquisition could go on the disqualified list if he doesn't agree to switch positions this week.

"The player refused to take the field, which we believe is a violation of his contract," Bowden said in Viera, Fla.

Soriano, a four-time All-Star second baseman, was acquired from Texas in a December trade. He was listed as batting leadoff and playing left field on a lineup sheet posted in the Nationals' clubhouse before Monday night's 11-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But when the Nationals took the field in the top of the first, Soriano wasn't out there. With play just about to begin, left field was empty, and nobody on the Nationals seemed to know where Soriano was.

Confused players and fans looked toward Washington's dugout. The only person to emerge, however, was Nationals manager Frank Robinson.

He approached plate umpire Mike Estabrook and made a defensive switch, moving Ryan Church from center field to left and putting Brandon Watson in center to replace Soriano in the lineup.

The Nationals already have an All-Star second baseman in Jose Vidro, so they told Soriano they wanted him to move to the outfield, and he indicated he didn't want to do that. But Monday provided his most concrete - and visible - objection.

"We told him if we get to Thursday, and he refuses to play left field, we told him at that point we will request that the commissioner's office place him on the disqualified list at that time - no pay, no service time," Bowden said.

"If he refuses to play and goes home, and the commissioner's office accepts our request to place him on the disqualified list, then at that point, if he were to sit out this year, he would not be a free agent, he would stay our property because his service time would stay the same."

When Soriano first reported to camp last month, the question of whether he would accept the switch was left open until his return from the World Baseball Classic.

Soriano played for the Dominican Republic, which was eliminated in the tournament semifinals Saturday. He joined the Nationals on Monday and worked out with teammates in the afternoon, but wouldn't speak to reporters. He wasn't in the clubhouse after Monday night's game.

Soriano lost his arbitration case this winter and is due to be paid $10 million this season, still a record for the highest salary awarded in arbitration.

Robinson sat down privately with Soriano for 20 minutes before the game to explain the team's position.

"If he's going to play here, he's going to have to be out in left field," Robinson said. "He said he's ready to play, he needs to play, he's ready for the season, and I penciled him in the lineup in left field."

Robinson said the meeting with Soriano was civil, but the player's position was clear.

"He's very sensitive, and he has a mind-set," Robinson said. "He lets you know how he feels."

The Boston Red Sox added their own power-hitting outfielder, acquiring Wily Mo Pena from the Cincinnati Reds for right-hander Bronson Arroyo in a swap of talented young players that could fill a major need for each team.

The 24-year-old Pena had more strikeouts at the plate last season (116) than Arroyo did on the mound (100). But Pena also hit 19 homers in 311 at-bats.

"This guy has some crazy power, man," Boston DH David Ortiz said in Fort Myers, Fla., rating Pena's strength above his own.

Arroyo can pitch a lot of innings and, if necessary, move to the bullpen. Last year he was 14-10 with a 4.51 earned-run average in a career-high 2051â3 innings.

The Mariners and White Sox also made a trade, with Seattle shipping lefty Matt Thornton to Chicago for outfielder Joe Borchard.

In St. Petersburg, Fla., the Devil Rays lost new reliever Shinji Mori to a season-ending shoulder injury.

Mori's spring debut ended Monday when he tore the labrum in his right shoulder on his third pitch in a minor league game. A five-time All-Star with the Seibu Lions of Japan's Pacific League, Mori signed a $1.4 million, two-year contract with the Devil Rays in January. He had been sidelined since the beginning of March because of soreness in his pitching shoulder.

In Tampa, Fla., Yankees right-hander Jaret Wright will miss his next scheduled start because of back spasms.

Also:

Braves 8, Cardinals 1

At Jupiter, Fla., John Smoltz allowed two hits in five shutout innings for Atlanta.

Reds 4, Blue Jays 3

At Sarasota, Fla., Ted Lilly pitched five scoreless innings for Toronto.

Tigers 15, Yankees 2

At Lakeland, Fla., Mike Mussina was tagged for 10 runs and 12 hits in four innings, including four homers in a span of nine batters.

Phillies 8, Twins 5

At Clearwater, Fla., Bobby Abreu hit his first home run of the spring, and Brett Myers struck out five in five innings.

Devil Rays 2, Pirates 2 (11)

At St. Petersburg, Fla., Edwin Jackson threw five scoreless innings for Tampa Bay.

Athletics 7, Mariners 1

At Phoenix, Rich Harden pitched five solid innings in his second start of the spring.

Cubs 10, Diamondbacks 2

At Tucson, Ariz., Neifi Perez hit a two-run homer.

Rockies 8, Padres 4

Tucson, Ariz. - Luis Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a three-run homer off Shawn Estes. It was the first homer for Gonzalez, who is hitting .417.

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