- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Although Alfonso Soriano reportedly was placed on waivers Tuesday, the possibility of the Washington Nationals parting ways with their star left fielder this season appear slim.

Once the trade deadline passes, it’s a fairly common practice among clubs to place high-profile players on waivers to gauge interest.

“That stuff happened to me last year in Texas, too,” Soriano said.

If a team claimed Soriano, it would have 48 hours to consummate a trade. If the Nationals didn’t like the deal, they could pull Soriano’s name off waivers. The Nationals shopped Soriano before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline and didn’t receive what they considered an acceptable offer.

Soriano becomes a free agent at the end of the season and undoubtedly will demand a huge contract. If the Nationals don’t re-sign Soriano and lose him to free agency, the club would get two draft picks as compensation.

Soriano reiterated again yesterday that he will not conduct contract negotiations with the Nationals during the season.

“It’s not like I can negotiate now and tomorrow we have a deal,” he said. “It takes long. [The Nationals] are going to have the first opportunity when I become a free agent. I hope everything works for me and for the team. Like I’ve said before, I like it here, I like my teammates and I like the city.”

Nationals general manager Jim Bowden was unavailable for comment yesterday. The possibility of Soriano being placed on waivers was first reported on Foxsports.com.

“Sometimes during the year, everybody is put on waivers,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “It’s no big deal. It’s like a prize fight — the first round you feel the other guy out.”

Escobar stays in center

Alex Escobar started his third straight game in center field last night, and Robinson said Escobar is being evaluated to see if he can become the club’s regular center fielder. He was batting .323 with three home runs, two doubles, and 15 RBI in 65 at-bats.

Escobar, 27, has had an injury-riddled career, missing two entire seasons (2002 and 2005). He has been sharing center-field duties with Ryan Church.

“It’s what I was looking for … to play every day,” Escobar said.

Extra bases

The Nationals front office is calling June’s draft a success after third-round Stephen King signed yesterday. King, a shortstop from Winter Park (Fla.) High School, makes the seventh pick out of the club’s first eight to do so. …

Outfielder Chris Marrero and right-hander Colton Willems, the Nationals’ two first-round draft picks, have been shut down for the last two weeks of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League season. Marrero has viral meningitis and Willems is suffering from shoulder fatigue.

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