- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2006

After a position switch brought him closer to the stands, Alfonso Soriano has enjoyed interacting with the Washington Nationals fans near left field.

Yesterday’s game may have been a final goodbye to those fans who have fallen in love with the Nationals All-Star.

“‘Stay here, please don’t go,’” Soriano recalled fans saying to him yesterday.

Soriano’s future, though, is out of his control. Nationals general manager Jim Bowden might hold it in his palm — as in his palm-held BlackBerry — but he isn’t saying.

Meanwhile, Soriano has impressed teammates with his ability to handle the trade rumors.

“I know it’s laying on Sori, but you can’t tell. We hope he stays,” backup catcher Robert Fick said. “We hope nobody wants him.”

Chances of that are slim. Soriano leads baseball with 60 extra-base hits and 244 total bases, while hitting .289 with 32 home runs. The Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins are just a few of the contending clubs interested in acquiring him.

But as rumors swirl, Soriano tries to stay focused on the field.

“Call me when you find out something, when you know something,” Soriano said he told his agent, Diego Bentz. “Because I don’t want to call you and you can’t tell me what’s going on. I don’t want to put that in my mind. Just call me when you find out something that is real important.”

Another rehab start

Right-hander Ryan Drese, out since April 15 with a right forearm strain, said he might make a fourth rehab start before he is reinstated to the Nationals’ active roster.

The day after he took the loss for Class AA Harrisburg in his third rehab start, Drese said his arm feels good but that he is not rushing to return. He might start Monday with Class AAA New Orleans in Portland, Ore., while the Nationals are in California on a nine-game road trip.

The Nationals want to see how Drese feels after today’s bullpen session before making a decision on his status.

Drese most likely will get activated during the Nationals’ trip. If he stays on his five-day schedule, he might start next Saturday’s game against San Diego.

“Right now, I’m just waiting to kinda see how I feel after tomorrow,” Drese said. “I’m not going to rush into any decisions.”

No change with Escobar

Center fielder Alex Escobar remains day-to-day with a strained right hamstring and said he’s going to need a few more days before he tries to play again.

“I’m pretty much going by what my body tells me,” said Escobar, who is batting .429 with three home runs and 12 RBI in 13 games. “As long as I feel like I can’t go out there 100 percent or close to 100 percent, I’m not going to try. I’m not going to make it worse or hurt the team.”

Escobar, who has missed the last four games, said he’s available to pinch hit, if needed. However, if Escobar does not return to the lineup soon, the Nationals may be forced to put him on the DL for the second time this season.

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To submit a question, go to the Sports Page

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