Continued from page 1

“You always want depth, not only for trades but also to protect yourself from injuries,” he said. “We all saw what happened last year when we had injuries and we didn’t have the depth to handle it. We lost 102 games. So this year, if we have injuries, we feel we have major league players that can step up and can perform.”

- Despite an unusually large number of players still on the open market, the Nationals are unlikely to pursue any more free agents.

Dunn’s signing earlier this month brought Washington’s 2009 payroll up to about $58 million. That’s $4 million higher than last year’s Opening Day payroll, and Bowden said ownership hasn’t approved a larger budget.

“If we add anybody, I think we’d need to reduce payroll in order to fit more in,” he said.

Asked whether veteran bullpen help would be his first target if allowed to sign any more players, Bowden said, “Pitching is always our first priority.”

- The Nationals understand the importance of this year’s amateur draft.

Washington holds the No. 1 and No. 10 overall picks in the June draft, a product of finishing with baseball’s worst record last season and failing to sign No. 9 pick Aaron Crow last summer.

Bowden’s inability to close a deal with Crow, who demanded at least $500,000 more than the Nationals were willing to offer at the Aug. 15 deadline, left some wondering whether the club would have trouble signing this year’s No. 1 pick (presumed to be San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who will be represented by agent Scott Boras).

“We have a great relationship with Scott,” Bowden said. “Sometimes it takes longer than you want [to get a deal done]. Sometimes it takes until midnight on Aug. 15. But we’re pretty confident we’ll be able to sign our pick.”