- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2007

VIERA, Fla. — Stan Kasten isn’t going to go out on a limb and predict the Washington Nationals will win the pennant, the division or even reach .500 this season.

But the club president does believe his team will make significant strides in 2007 that could result in any or all of those loftier goals being achieved in and beyond 2008.

“We expect to see progress, and I mean that sincerely,” Kasten said yesterday. “We expect progress. We really do think the course we’re on is the fastest way for us to get to where we want to go.”

In town for one day to get a glimpse of spring training camp, Kasten spoke to the entire team before the morning workout, reiterated manager Manny Acta’s message about the club’s plan for success and added that players will be expected to be visible not only on the field but also in the community.

“It takes all of us,” he said. “Everyone has a role in that, and I wanted to impress that upon them. It transcends things merely on the field, and each and every one of our players has a really important role to play in all of that.”

Kasten spoke positively about the franchise’s recent efforts to broaden its scouting operations in Latin America (including a new working agreement with a Mexican club) and said the organization is beginning to make strides in Asia.

He said the Nationals hope to be in a position to make a play for top Japanese talent within the next few years and said he also attempted recently to get USA Baseball to move an exhibition game against the Chinese national team to RFK Stadium. Those efforts were quashed, though, because D.C. United already will be using the facility that day.

Guzman returns today

Shortstop Cristian Guzman is expected to resume full workouts today, clearing by medical personnel to begin throwing and hitting after sitting out three straight days following an MRI on his surgically repaired right shoulder.

Guzman said earlier this week his shoulder still isn’t 100 percent and that he’s experiencing tendinitis, but team doctors say that’s normal for a player returning from surgery to repair a torn labrum.

“I feel a lot better,” Guzman said. “It’s a little bit tight right now. I’m doing exercises today and tomorrow and we’ll see what happens. I’m going to do everything normal tomorrow.”

The Nationals will still monitor him closely, and Acta said he’ll take things easy with Guzman during the early portion of spring training.

Extra bases

Right-hander John Patterson threw live batting practice yesterday, the first time the Nationals’ presumptive ace has faced hitters since being shut down last July with a forearm injury. Patterson threw all his pitches and said he felt great. He’s scheduled to face live hitters twice more before making his spring-training debut March 3 against the Baltimore Orioles. Once he’s on a five-day routine, he’ll be in line to start Opening Day (April 2 against the Florida Marlins).

Reliever Jesus Colome was held out of yesterday’s workout with an abscess on his upper right buttocks. He’ll be back at full strength tomorrow.

Acta said the club will play two intrasquad games Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for Friday’s exhibition opener.

“Gotta find some innings for those 36 [pitchers],” the manager said.

Want more Nats? Check out Nats Home Plate.

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