- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006

12:20 p.m.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals wrapped up the winter meetings this morning without signing a free agent or completing a trade, but they won’t be going home empty-handed.

The Nationals selected two players in the Rule 5 draft (catcher Jesus Flores and right-hander Levale Speigner) who they believe will help the major league club both this season and down the road.

Flores, who hit .266 with 21 homers and 70 RBI for the New York Mets’ Class A affiliate in Port St. Lucie, Fla., last season, likely will become Brian Schneider’s primary backup catcher. A 22-year-old right-handed-hitter who was rated the Mets’ 12th-best prospect by Baseball America, Flores was a target of the Nationals last summer at the trading deadline.

Speigner, 26, went a combined 4-3 with a 3.57 ERA in 49 games last season for the Minnesota Twins’ Class AAA and AA clubs. Though he worked exclusively out of the bullpen in 2006, Washington scouting director Dana Brown believes he could compete for a spot in the Nationals’ starting rotation this spring.

Each player cost the Nationals $50,000, but they made back $50,000 from the Twins, who selected shortstop Alejandro Machado off Class AAA Columbus’ roster. Machado was only recently signed by Washington as a six-year, minor-league free agent.

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