- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 13, 2008

His window for negotiating with first-round draft pick Aaron Crow down to its final 72 hours, Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden is ramping up the rhetoric in hopes of swaying the right-hander’s mind.

Crow, the ninth selection in the June amateur draft, remains the only one of Washington’s top 10 picks yet to sign. If a deal isn’t struck before midnight Friday, Major League Baseball’s deadline for draftees to come to terms, Crow will return to the University of Missouri for his senior season, and the Nationals will receive a compensatory pick (“9A”) in next summer’s draft.

That possibility doesn’t seem to bother Bowden, who said Tuesday his team could have two early first-round selections in 2009.

“Our scouting department is not going to complain if we walk into next year’s draft and get two picks in the top 10,” Bowden said. “That won’t be a complaint. … We hope to sign Crow. We’re going to work hard to sign Crow. But it is good to know that at the end of the day, if you don’t do it, you’re still going to get two of the top 10 next year.”

Crow, 21, wants a deal that includes a major league contract and a signing bonus above the suggested $2.15 million slot for his position.

The Nationals have shown a willingness to go above slot in each of the last two seasons and this week signed their third-, fourth- and fifth-round picks for above the MLB-suggested allotment.

Back to the bullpen

Garrett Mock’s time in the Nationals’ rotation was again brief.

The rookie right-hander, who made his third career start Sunday in Milwaukee, is headed back to the bullpen. With no available rotation spots - he was needed in this case because of last week’s doubleheader in Colorado - Mock will try to make an impression as a reliever.

He’s 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA in his three starts with the Nationals, and he hasn’t allowed a run over 4 1/3 total innings in four relief appearances. Between Class AAA Columbus and Washington, Mock has pitched 124 innings. Although he would like to add another 75 innings to that tally, the organization will monitor him closely.

Regardless of his role the rest of the season, Mock considers the process beneficial.

“It doesn’t matter starting or relieving, because experience comes from one at-bat where you learn something,” he said. “There’s this one at-bat where you’re in this situation, and you make this pitch and you succeed. That’s something you can learn from.”

The Nationals are also closely watching fellow rookie right-hander Collin Balester, who has thrown a combined 115 1/3 innings between Class AAA and the majors so far. Last year, the team shut down John Lannan after he reached 159 1/3 total innings.

Boone close

Aaron Boone, out since July 6 with a strained calf, was scheduled to play in rehab games with Columbus on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, after which the club may decide to activate him from the disabled list.

“I want to see how tonight and tomorrow go, but he feels really good,” Bowden said. “He feels like he’s just about there.”

If the Nationals add Boone to the roster in the next few days, he could take infielder Alberto Gonzalez’s spot.

Manager Manny Acta said the team “probably” will place Gonzalez (gluteal contusion) on the DL.

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