WASHINGTON -- Before all the hoopla about Stephen Strasburg being shut down for the season, the last controversy involving a significant Nationals player centered on Alfonso Soriano.
Before acquiring his services during the 2005 offseason, Soriano was one of the best slugging second basemen in baseball. But after Soriano joined the Nationals, then-general manager Jim Bowden decided that Soriano was better suited as a left fielder. The Nationals already had a second baseman in Jose Vidro.
The standoff between Soriano and the club reached the point where Soriano refused to play the outfield against the Dodgers in March 2006. If Soriano decided not to play the outfield during the season, Bowden said the club would request Major League Baseball place Soriano on the disqualified list for not rendering his services to the club. It meant that Soriano would not earn his $10 million salary and lose service time.
Soriano ended up being the everyday left fielder and had one of his best seasons, hitting .277 with 46 home runs, 95 RBIs and 119 runs scored, while leading the team in outfield assists.
In retrospect, Soriano feels great making the position switch. He continues to learn more about the position on a regular basis. He said he works regularly with Cubs outfield/ first-base coach Dave McKay and feels that he is a totally different outfielder than he was in 2006.
"I didn't see myself as an outfielder, but I'm working hard to get better every day," Soriano said. "I feel more comfortable every day."
In Soriano's only year in Washington, the Nationals finished fifth, going 71-91. Soriano has kept his eye on the Nationals and feels they can go far in the postseason. He also is happy for third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the only member of the 2006 Nationals who is still with the team.
"It's a totally different team. They are in first place right now. They have a very good team," Soriano said. "They have a good starting rotation, bullpen. They have a good offense and defense. I think they have a very good chance this year because they have a good team.
"I'm happy for Ryan and the city, too. I played here in 2006, but I'm happy more for Zim because he is a great guy, has very good talent in baseball. I was a teammate of his. He is now a contender. He has a chance to win everything, so I'm happy for him."
Harper, LaRoche riding hot streaks at the plate
WASHINGTON -- Nationals sluggers Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche continued to swing hot bats in a 9-1 victory over the Cubs on Wednesday night.
Harper, 19, hit two home runs, his second career multi-homer game. Since 1918, the only players younger than Harper to twice hit two homers in a game were Mel Ott and Ken Griffey Jr.
In the third inning, with the Cubs' Chris Volstad on the mound, Harper smoked a home run over the left-center-field wall. With one out in the sixth and Michael Bowden on the mound, Harper hit a mammoth shot that landed in the second deck in right field. Harper also had two walks.
In his last 10 games, Harper is 13-for-37 (.351) with five home runs and 10 RBIs to raise his batting average to .259, with 17 home runs and 47 RBIs.
"I feel good up there. I try to go up there and have good ABs and look for one pitch I could drive," Harper said. "I really try to get it. It's nice to have everyone around me hitting. I think when one person hits, everybody hits."
LaRoche had three hits, including a two-run home run, and three RBIs on Wednesday. In his last 10 games, LaRoche is 15-for-37 (.405) with four home runs and seven RBIs.
LaRoche is on pace to post the best power numbers of his career. Entering Thursday's game against the Cubs, LaRoche has 28 home runs and 90 RBIs.
"It's not done yet," LaRoche said."We still have a lot of ball left. You really don't look at individual stuff -- to be honest -- until the season is over. You have a group goal here. ... When the season is over, I'm going to sit back and dissect the season, reflect on it a little bit. Use that for some motivation next year."
The Nationals and LaRoche have a mutual option for next year that is worth $10 million. LaRoche said the sides have not talked about the option recently. LaRoche continues to say that he wants to stay with Washington past this season.
"I would love working something out to stay here," LaRoche said. "I bounced all over the place for nine years. ... I love what we have working here. The [Nationals] are set up for the long haul."
Burnett expected to rest, hopes to throw soon
WASHINGTON -- Nationals left-hander Sean Burnett is expected to rest his elbow for the next few days. As of now, Burnett is not expected to get an MRI and hopes to start throwing soon.
Burnett said he has experienced elbow soreness for about two months, but was able to post respectable numbers. In 61 games, Burnett has a 2.49 ERA, but allowed five earned runs in his last 5 1/3 innings.
"I had trouble shutting it down," Burnett said. "I was still having success. I'm not going to look at my teammates in the eye and shut it down when I'm still doing well. It just got to the point in the last week to 10 days, I was probably doing more than I should try to create movement, maybe get the velocity up.
"It wasn't fair to my teammates. There were better options in the bullpen than me at the time. It wasn't right for me to go out there at 80 percent and giving up leads the way I was giving them up."
Davey Johnson said that Nationals right-hander Chien-Ming Wang could get a start before the season ends, but the skipper wants to see Wang throw before he makes a final decision.
Wang has missed most of the season because of injuries, including a hip issue. He has made seven appearances, going 2-3 with a 7.61 ERA.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.