The Washington Nationals signed Marlon Byrd to a one-year, $800,000 contract yesterday, avoiding arbitration with the 28-year-old outfielder.
Byrd, who was eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career, hit .266 with two homers and 26 RBI in 79 games last season, when he made $380,000.
Acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies on May14 for outfielder Endy Chavez, Byrd spent part of the season platooning in left field with Ryan Church before being optioned to Class AAA New Orleans on July31. He was recalled in late August, though, and impressed club officials by hitting .306 the rest of the season.
Byrd is expected to serve as Washington’s fourth or fifth outfielder, though he will be given a shot this spring to win an everyday job.
Also, infielder/outfielder Tony Blanco had arthroscopic surgery yesterday in Washington to repair a right shoulder injury that plagued him while playing winter ball. Blanco, who hit .177 in 56 games as a rookie in 2005, is expected to begin throwing again in four to six weeks. He will likely open the season at New Orleans.
Meanwhile, club sources yesterday confirmed the Nationals have expressed mild interest in free agent slugger Sammy Sosa. A television report out of the Dominican Republic suggested the two sides were close to an agreement, but the sources said no deal was imminent.
In other news, four of the Washington Nationals’ six minor league managers from 2005 will return this year, the club announced yesterday, though only one is remaining at the same level.
Four-time All-Star catcher John Stearns replaces Keith Bodie as manager at Class AA Harrisburg. Randy Knorr (High Class A Potomac) and Bobby Williams (Low Class A Savannah) are each moving up a level in the system, and Bobby Henley, who managed Potomac last season, will manage the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League rookie team. Newcomer Edgar Caceres takes over at short-season Class A Vermont.
The Nationals’ full 2006 minor league staff assignments:
CLASS AAA NEW ORLEANS
Pitching coachSteve McCatty
CLASS AA HARRISBURG