Notes: Nats interested in Belliard
Club reportedly targeting veteran free agent as reserve infielder
VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals lost a considerable amount of strength on the bench when they traded Marlon Anderson and Daryle Ward for prospects on Aug. 31.
But, according to a baseball source outside the organization, the Nationals are trying to make up for some of their losses, as they've expressed interest in free-agent infielder Ronnie Belliard.
Belliard, 31, played with the Indians and Cardinals last season and hit a combined .272 with 13 home runs and 67 RBIs. He was instrumental in the Cardinals' postseason run to the World Series.
Belliard was unavailable for comment and e-mail messages to general manager Jim Bowden were not returned.
If Belliard joins Washington, he would have to take a huge pay cut. He made $4 million in 2006, but the Nationals are not going to pay him that kind of money. It's not known how much Belliard is willing to accept from Washington.
Belliard would be the perfect backup to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and second baseman Felipe Lopez, and if Cristian Guzman is not ready to play shortstop or he is unproductive with the bat, Belliard could start at second with Lopez moving back to short.
Right now, the Nationals are looking to see if Josh Wilson, Jose Macias and D'Angelo Jimenez can make the roster as backup infielders. None of them have established themselves as consistent contributors in the Major Leagues in recent years.
See you in Arizona? Closer Chad Cordero said that he and the Nationals accomplished nothing during their meeting on Thursday evening, which means they will likely go to arbitration in Phoenix on Tuesday. Cordero is looking for a $4.15 million payday, while Washington is offering him $3.65 million.
Cordero said that Bowden warned him that they would say some negative things about him during the hearing. According to Cordero, his camp is going to use the fact that he has saved 76 games in the past two seasons.
"Nothing got done," Cordero said. "I have to see what goes on in arbitration. It looks like it's not going to be good things, based on what happened [Thursday]. You never know, something could happen. We could work something out within the next couple of days so we don't have to get on that flight out to Arizona. I'm sure that they are going to mention anything can to win the case."
Injury report: Don't look for outfielder Alex Escobar to start any games during the first week of the exhibition season, because he is still rehabbing his right shoulder, which he separated diving back to first base against the Braves on Aug 25. He said he could be available to pinch-hit during that week. The rehab is scheduled to end in a few weeks.
Escobar hopes to start taking batting practice in a couple of weeks. Right now, he is just hitting off a tee.
"The shoulder is good," Escobar said. "I'm halfway there. I haven't had any problems. I saw Dr. [James] Andrews a month ago and he was impressed with the improvement of my shoulder. I have full range of motion right now -- full mobility. It's just I have to get back into throwing."
Escobar is competing with Kory Casto, Ryan Church and Chris Snelling for the starting left-field job. Last season, Escobar played in 33 games and hit .356 (31-for-87) with four home runs and 18 RBIs.
On the mound: Pitchers Luis Ayala, Micah Bowie and John Patterson threw bullpen sessions on Friday and didn't feel any pain.
Patterson, who missed most of the 2006 season because of a pinched nerve in his right forearm, was able to throw his breaking balls without any problems, but he acknowledged that he was a little rusty because he didn't have a session in a week due to his arbitration case.
Bowie, who had muscle problems near his left shoulder area last season, was able to throw his fastball during his eight minutes on the mound.
Ayala threw for only five minutes, and he was able to throw his fastball and sinker without any problems. The Nationals acknowledged that they were going let Ayala start Spring Training slowly. He missed all of last season because of right elbow reconstruction surgery.
Early birds: First baseman Nick Johnson, outfielders Nook Logan, Michael Restovich and Escobar reported to camp on Friday. They join Church, Larry Broadway, Austin Kearns, Casto, Wayne Lydon, Snelling, Wilson and Zimmerman as the only non-catchers to report to camp early.
Thinking ahead: The temperature has been in the 50s the last two days, so manager Manny Acta decided to push back Saturday's workouts to 30-45 minutes later than the scheduled start time of 9:30 a.m. ET. The temperature is supposed to be in the low 60s on Saturday.
Be a part of the mailbag: The Nationals mailbag returns on Monday. Send in your questions now.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.