- The Washington Times - Monday, February 21, 2005

Nationals Notes

VIERA, Fla. — This may be outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds’ last chance. And he knows it.

A rejuvenated Hammonds, who signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals in December, arrived in camp yesterday smiling and brimming with confidence.

At 33, Hammonds probably is nearing the end of his career. But at the same time, the Baltimore Orioles’ first-round pick from the 1992 amateur draft could be in a great situation with the Nationals, a team looking for outfield depth.

“If that time [for retirement] arises, it’s something you’ve got to take into consideration,” Hammonds said. “I’m not getting any younger. I’m just going out to play this game, but if it’s time to go home, it’s time to go home. I’m here to make the club.”

Hammonds, whom the Orioles drafted fourth overall, started 22 games in the outfield for the San Francisco Giants last season before being released June 3. After hitting .211 with three home runs and six RBI, he decided not to sign with another club.

“The past four years I wasn’t good,” Hammonds said. “You can blame it on a lot of things, but I wasn’t playing good baseball. There were spurts. If I could [tell you why], I would, but there is nothing to talk about. It’s what it is. … Surgery, situations, just things that happened. We’re here in 2005, a whole new start, a deja vu of a sense. I’m looking forward to whatever is around this corner that I’m about to embark on.”

When Hammonds strolled into the clubhouse, he was greeted by friendly faces. Don Buford, the Nationals’ first-base coach, was Hammonds’ manager at Class AA in the Orioles’ system, and Nationals roving coach Jack Voigt played with Hammonds in Baltimore.

But Hammonds’ best relationship is with Nationals manager Frank Robinson, who signed Hammonds to his first professional contract as the Orioles’ assistant general manager in 1992.

“It’s good to see some familiar faces,” Hammonds said. “There’s a lot of excitement just being able to come back to the East Coast and of just having a chance to play.”

Hammonds is a .272 lifetime hitter with 110 home runs and 422 RBI. Though he enjoyed 5 productive seasons in Baltimore, his best year was 2000 with the Colorado Rockies, when he hit .335 with 20 home runs and 106 RBI.

Where is everyone?

Position players were expected to report to spring training yesterday, but some of the club’s bigger names were missing.

Third baseman Vinny Castilla, center fielder Endy Chavez and right fielder Jose Guillen were the most notable absences. According to the players, as long as they notified the team they were en route and will attend today’s mandatory physicals, it was OK not to be in the clubhouse yesterday.

“Today is reporting day, correct? That doesn’t mean you have to be here,” Nationals catcher Brian Schneider said. “Reporting day is get into town; it doesn’t mean you have to come by the field. A lot of guys are coming in from Puerto Rico, Venezuela and California. They get night flights. Tomorrow morning they will be at the physicals.”

Chad hanging in Florida

Even the Washington Redskins are jumping on the Nationals’ bandwagon. Chad Morton, the Redskins’ injured return specialist, swung by practice with his physician. Morton, who blew out his knee on a kickoff return Oct. 31 against the Green Bay Packers, is rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee in Miami.

Wiemi Douoghui, one of the Nationals’ physicians and a former Redskins doctor, has been working with Morton in his clinic. Morton pretty much ruled out attending the Redskins’ upcoming May minicamp.

“It’s going really good. I’m really excited, and I’m well-ahead of the norm,” said Morton, who was sporting a Nationals cap in the clubhouse. “I have a whole different focus after this. [May minicamp is] pretty soon. I’m pushing for that goal, but at the same time I don’t want to do it too early and mess it up.”

Greisinger’s a long shot

Pitcher Seth Greisinger, who played at McLean High School and later at the University of Virginia, didn’t exactly receive a ringing endorsement from Robinson.

“I don’t know what he would do to make this ballclub. I can’t say, I won’t say and I won’t try to say,” Robinson said. “I don’t think he will go from a long shot to being on this ballclub. He would have to do an awful lot. I don’t think he will get that opportunity. There is only so many innings here for guys to get.

“What he can do is improve his position, as far as we’re concerned, Randy St. Claire, the pitching coach, myself, and what I think about him,” Robinson continued. “So when we need, and we will need someone during the course of the season, you might say he’s the guy that impressed me in spring training and I want to get him up here and see what he can do at this level. He can move himself up in the pecking order down here.”

Extra bases

Sports Illustrated attended practice the past two days for a story and photo shoot on Robinson. SI told the Nationals’ communications department there is a 70 percent chance Robinson and the Nationals will appear on the magazine’s cover this week, edging out the Daytona 500. …

The Nationals announced the roster for the club’s accelerated development program. Invitations were issued to 37 top prospects, including 18 pitchers, who are not already in spring training. They will report Thursday to the Nationals’ Carl Barger training complex.

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