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02/12/09 7:49 PM EST

Nationals will not pursue Hudson

Team to go forward with Belliard, Gonzalez, Harris and Hernandez

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals will no longer pursue free agent Orlando Hudson. Instead, they will have four players -- Ronnie Belliard, Alberto Gonzalez, Willie Harris and Anderson Hernandez -- compete for the starting second-base job.

General manager Jim Bowden declined to give a reason why Hudson will not be a member of the team.

Belliard, Gonzalez, Harris and Hernandez were quality players for the Nationals last year. Hernandez played often after he was acquired from the Mets last August in a trade for reliever Luis Ayala. He showed a special talent with the glove. Even more impressive was that he batted .333 with 17 RBIs in 28 games.

Bowden said Belliard is in the best shape of his career since he joined Washington two years ago. Belliard played in 96 games last year and hit .287 with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs.

Harris had the best season of his career in 2008, hitting a career-high 13 home runs with 43 RBIs. Harris, the most versatile player on the Nationals, is one of the best candidates to become the team's leadoff hitter.

Gonzalez, a shortstop by trade, was 17-for-49 (.347) in his brief time with Washington last year.

"We have four possibilities to solve that position from within," Bowden said.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.