- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 25, 2006

VIERA, Fla. — Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. is the sixth Washington Nationals player expected to play in next week’s inaugural World Baseball Classic.

Venezuelan manager Luis Sojo called Armas on Thursday to inform him that he had been named to Venezuela’s final 30-man roster. Armas’ inclusion to the Venezuelan team comes as a bit of a surprise to the Nationals, who didn’t know if Armas was going to play in the 16-team tournament.

Before yesterday’s morning practice, Nationals manager Frank Robinson said Armas had not informed him whether he was going to play. Armas joins closer Chad Cordero (U.S.), catcher Brian Schneider (U.S.), second baseman Alfonso Soriano (Dominican Republic), catcher Alberto Castillo (Dominican Republic), and minor league catcher Mike DiFelice (Italy) as the other Nationals in camp that are likely to play.

“It’s going to be a good opportunity to represent my country and give it the best we can,” Armas said.

Reliever Luis Ayala said yesterday he has until Tuesday to decide whether he’s going to play for his native Mexico. Ayala is undecided because of right elbow problems. Meanwhile, Armas would join a Venezuelan team that includes outfielders Miguel Cabrera, Bobby Abreu, Magglio Ordonez, shortstop Omar Vizquel, and pitchers Johan Santana, Freddy Garcia, Carlos Zambrano and Frankie Rodriguez.

“Everybody wants to play on the Venezuelan team,” Armas said.

First full-squad workout

Rain shortened the Nationals’ first full-squad workout yesterday, but it was still a big day for the club to welcome the newcomers.

With the exception of reliever Felix Rodriguez, who arrived last night, the new-look Nationals were nearly intact. In his customary fashion, Robinson kicked off camp with a closed-door clubhouse meeting. Today was especially important for new players like superstar Alfonso Soriano to meet everybody.

“This is a day that everybody is looking to be together, meeting your new teammates, I think it’s pretty good,” right fielder Jose Guillen said. “Spring training, your first day, this is the day that everybody has been waiting for. Just putting the group together, and just move forward from there. I’m happy to know that there are good players around.”

Before the rain came, the pitchers had a bullpen session, the position players worked on fielding drills, and first-base coach Davey Lopes gave a base-running clinic. When it started raining, the pitchers went into the batting cages at the minor-league complex and the position players hit in the cages at Space Coast Stadium.

“Finally, we get to strap it on and get out there and enjoy what we’re doing,” said Ryan Church, who is competing for the starting center field job with Marlon Byrd and Brandon Watson. “You bring everybody together and we get to see what we got and go from there. You start meeting as many people as you can and after that you pretty much know everybody by their first name instead of just a number.”

From the players’ standpoint, the first full-squad workout is a much-anticipated event.

“Once December got in and January and everything, everybody is excited, spring training is coming, spring training is coming, and everybody is excited just to see each other,” second baseman Jose Vidro said. “Everybody is wearing the same uniform, the same shirts, so we’re like brothers. We’re going to go to war together, so we might as well make sure everybody fits pretty good and feels comfortable with ourselves here.”

Guillen update

Guillen said he expects to hit live pitching for the first time this camp in a little more than a week. Guillen, who underwent offseason surgery on his left rotator cuff, is making steady progress rehabbing his shoulder. Yesterday, Guillen swung a bat for the third time this camp, hitting soft toss.

“We’re moving forward, in like a week-and-a-half to two weeks, that’s when we start hitting some live BP [batting practice] in the field, so that’s going to be a pretty good challenge,” Guillen said.

During the Nationals’ winter caravan in early February, Guillen expressed concern whether his shoulder would be ready for Opening Day. Barring a setback, Guillen appears on course to be ready for the Nationals’ April 3 season opener against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.

Last season, Guillen was the Nationals’ top offensive threat, leading the the team in runs (81), hits (156), total bases (264) home runs (24) and RBI (76).

12 players signed

The Nationals announced they have agreed to terms with 12 players on one-year contracts: pitchers John Patterson, Gary Majewski, Jon Rauch and Jason Bergmann; outfielders Ryan Church, Marlon Byrd, Brandon Watson, Tyrell Godwin and Frank Diaz; third baseman Ryan Zimmerman; and infielders Brendan Harris and Tony Blanco. All were already under the team’s control and weren’t eligible yet for free agency.

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