- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 12, 2008

MILWAUKEE | If Washington Nationals second baseman Emilio Bonifacio had any regret over the fact he was three weeks shy of possibly starting for a division-leading team, he wasn’t showing it Monday.

Bonifacio, who came to the Nationals in the July 22 trade that sent Jon Rauch to the Diamondbacks, might have assumed the starting role in Arizona now that Orlando Hudson is done for the season with a dislocated wrist.

Hudson, who had surgery on his wrist Saturday night, was blocking Bonifacio in the Diamondbacks’ system, and the 23-year-old was viewed as the likely successor to Hudson should he leave after the season in free agency.

But Bonifacio knew Hudson wasn’t guaranteed to leave, and he was encouraged by how strongly the Nationals wanted him.

“It’s one of those things I can’t control,” Bonifacio said. “The thing is I have more chances over here.”

After hitting .375 in his first seven games with the Nationals, the second baseman has cooled off, going 0-for-15 in Washington’s series with the Milwaukee Brewers.

“He’s been in a little bit of a funk the last couple games, but it’s part of the game,” manager Manny Acta said. “We’re just talking to him and starting to preach the importance of on-base percentage, working the count and getting on base and stuff. He’s going to be fine. They’re throwing him some soft stuff because that’s what they do to young guys who are a little bit impatient. But he’ll make the adjustment.”

Nationals sign two

On Monday, Washington signed two more of its picks from the June draft: third-rounder Daniel Espinosa, a shortstop from Long Beach State, and fourth-round pick Graham Hicks, a left-handed pitcher from Lakeland, Fla.

Hicks’ family was not ready to release the terms of the signing bonus yet, but it is over the league’s slot recommendation. The Nationals had been notified of the minimum amount Hicks would sign for before the draft. The players drafted before and after Hicks signed for $260,000 and $267,000, respectively.

“Everything worked out on his behalf,” said Hank Sargent, Hicks’ advisor. “The Nationals conducted themselves with a great deal of professionalism.”

With that, only first rounder Aaron Crow is unsigned among the Nationals’ top five picks. The team has until midnight Friday to reach a deal with the Missouri right-hander.

Gonzalez likely to DL

Acta said Monday that Alberto Gonzalez, who hasn’t played since sustaining a contusion on one of his left gluteal muscles Aug. 4, likely will go on the 15-day disabled list in the next few days.

Gonzalez has been running the bases, and Acta has said he is available to play, but the shortstop still was not in the lineup Monday when Cristian Guzman got the day off.

“There’s a very good chance he might end up being DL-ed because of how many days we haven’t used him,” Acta said.

Gonzalez could be placed on the DL retroactive to Aug. 5, meaning he would be able to return in a little more than a week.

Boone returning soon

Third baseman Aaron Boone was 2-for-3 in his first game of a rehab stint with the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate in Viera, Fla., and moved to Class AAA Columbus on Monday.

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