- The Washington Times - Friday, July 29, 2005

ATLANTA — Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden won’t have to get approval from anyone at Major League Baseball to make trades before Sunday’s nonwaiver deadline.

Commissioner Bud Selig reiterated that during yesterday’s loss in Atlanta, saying the league-owned Nationals are free to make their own contract decisions.

“I don’t think Jim Bowden is in any different position than any other general manager,” said Selig, who was in town to help open a new kids area outside Turner Field. “Jim knows what he has to do, and he can go do it. The only way I’ll know is I’ll read it in the paper or hear it on television or the radio.”

There has been speculation from the beginning that the Nationals would be constrained from adding to their Opening Day payroll of $48 million. But Bowden has said all along he needs approval only from club president Tony Tavares before making any moves.

Bowden did just that two weeks ago, taking on $2 million in salary to acquire outfielder Preston Wilson from the Colorado Rockies. There don’t appear to be any more major moves forthcoming, but Bowden has been searching for another pitcher.

And if he should happen to stumble across a potential blockbuster in the next 72 hours?

“They don’t have to come to us,” Selig said. “That’s up to them.”

The commissioner also reiterated he plans to select the Nationals’ new owner within a month, even though he has not whittled the eight competing bidders down to a group of finalists.

“Our people are talking to each group, and I don’t think they’re quite at that stage yet,” Selig said. “But the process is very intense and very much ongoing. …

“When this summer is over, there will be an owner of the Washington Nationals. And the happiest guy in the world will be the commissioner of Baseball.”

Other baseball sources, however, said there is virtually no chance a group of finalists will be selected. Instead, MLB likely just will select a bid group and set a price; it already has a clear idea of a desired sale price and what the uppermost bids are for each bidder. That price is believed to be around $450 million.

To balk or not to balk

Nationals manager Frank Robinson waited all week for Braves reliever Jay Powell to enter a ballgame. And as soon as Powell finally delivered his first pitch of the series in the sixth inning yesterday, Robinson wasted no time storming out of the dugout to argue Powell had just balked.

Robinson had seen videotape of Powell’s pitching motion — in which the right-hander lifts his left leg as if he’s going to throw the ball and then resets himself before delivering the pitch — and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t considered a balk.

So as soon as Powell threw ball one to Vinny Castilla yesterday, Robinson popped out of the dugout and made a beeline for plate umpire Gerry Davis. Despite the manager’s pleas, Davis didn’t buy the argument. The umpire said Powell had not come fully set when he lifted his leg up the first time.

“It looked like on videotape, at times, like his hands are not moving,” Robinson said. “If your hands are not moving, you have come set. And then he lifts his legs the second time.”

• Staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this article.

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