- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

Robert Fick, one of the Washington Nationals’ most-reliable pinch-hitters when healthy last season, has signed a minor-league contract to return in 2007 and will attempt to make the club in spring training.

Fick, who hit .266 with two homers and nine RBI in 128 at-bats last year, accepted a non-guaranteed deal with Washington. If he’s on the Opening Day roster, he’ll earn $850,000 (same as his 2006 salary).

The 32-year-old utilityman started at three different positions for the Nationals last season (catcher, first base and right field) and led the team with a .318 average in 22 pinch-hit at-bats despite two stints on the disabled list that cost him 57 games.

“I think it’s important to have an experienced bench player who can play multiple positions,” general manager Jim Bowden said. “Obviously, Robert can catch, play first, play right and give us a good left-handed bat off the bench.”

A career .261 hitter, Fick becomes the second veteran player to sign a minor-league contract with the Nationals this week, joining left-handed reliever Ray King. Both have proven track records in the majors, and both figure to make the club barring any spring calamities.

“Certainly with a developing, young team, you need to have some veterans on the bench,” Bowden said. “With Ray King in the bullpen and Fick pinch-hitting, those are pieces that will help our team compete.”

Washington is close to signing another player to a minor-league deal: infielder D’Angelo Jimenez, a one-time top New York Yankees prospect who has bounced around the last few years.

Jimenez, according to club sources, will be a longshot to the make the club this spring but will provide insurance in case shortstop Cristian Guzman isn’t fully healed from shoulder surgery or new second baseman Felipe Lopez has trouble handling the position.

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