Sunday, February 24, 2008

VIERA, Fla. — Ryan Zimmerman may be the face of the Washington Nationals franchise but apparently not a market-setting face.

General manager Jim Bowden, commenting on the recent negotiations with Zimmerman’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, said that the team is not going to sign Zimmerman to a long-term contract that would set a new standard.

“We’ve made it very clear to [Zimmerman and Van Wagenen] that if Ryan is willing to sign a contract that is similar to what all the other good young players are signing for — and there’s been a whole bunch of signings, as you all have seen in the last year — if he’s willing to do a market signing, we are prepared to do that with him,” Bowden said. “We’re not going set all new markets with him. We’re not going to change the pay scale of Major League Baseball for one player.”

Zimmerman, the Nationals’ first-round draft choice in 2005, can’t become a free agent until after the 2011 season, but the team and Zimmerman’s agent began talks last spring on a long-term deal. Nothing came of it, so the Nationals exercised their right to renew Zimmerman’s contract, paying him $400,000. Talks began again recently.

“There have been so many signings, whether you look at [Troy] Tulowitzki or [Robinson] Cano or [Brian] McCann or [Grady] Sizemore, so many that are all in the same range, and our organization is prepared to do that,” Bowden said. “And in the range of what everyone else has signed. We are prepared to do that like everybody else, and we have communicated that to Brodie.”

Last month Tulowitzki, coming off a standout rookie season, signed a six-year, $31 million deal. Cano recently signed a four-year, $30 million contract. McCann’s contract, signed in March 2007, was for six years, $26.8 million, and Sizemore reached a six-year, $23.45 million deal in March 2006 after his rookie season.

Zimmerman, 23, had 23 home runs and 91 RBI last year. In two full seasons with Washington, he has 44 home runs and 201 RBI.

Bret Boone promoted

Bret Boone’s stint as a minor leaguer in the Washington Nationals camp lasted about a day.

Yesterday Boone had a locker in the major league clubhouse and wore the team’s major league uniform for photo day.

The team promoted him to a nonroster major league player — still with a minor league contract, though — based on the little that team officials had seen of him in camp.

“I was working down there, and [general manager Jim Bowden] was probably getting reports and said he wanted to see it,” Boone said. “This early, I didn’t want it to be a sideshow. When I walked out there the other day, it felt kind of weird, like there was a spotlight on me. But he saw what he wanted to see, and he made the decision. This is what Jim wanted me to do, and he’s the general manager, and I do what he says.”

Bowden said the decision was based on the brief look they got at Boone so far.

“It was based on watching him field ground balls, watching him hit, watching him swing the bat, his conditioning,” Bowden said. “As I said, 7 percent body fat is just outrageous. He’s in great shape, and he’s obviously mentally and physically prepared to do this.”

Boone was once one of the game’s top second basemen, but he has been out of baseball for two years.

He said he would be willing to still play in the minor league accelerated spring training games to get more at bats.

“I have no problem going there every day and playing in those games just to get my at bats,” he said.

Perez arrives

Veteran left-hander Odalis Perez practiced with his new team for the first time and said he is more prepared this spring than in any previous season of his nine-year career.

“I have been working real hard,” he said. “I wanted to come to spring training and show them I still have a lot to give. The way I feel physically, mentally, I am hungry and this is going to be one of my best years in the big leagues. This is the first time in my career that I worked so hard. I want to show to this team that I can give a lot of good games.”

Perez, 31, received a nonguaranteed minor league contract. He will earn $850,000, with incentives kicking in at 20 starts.

Catchers won’t be ready

Neither Paul Lo Duca nor Johnny Estrada, the Nationals two catchers, will be ready to play for the first exhibition game against the Florida Marlins on Friday.

Lo Duca is still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery three weeks ago, while Estrada is coming back from offseason knee and elbow surgeries.

“I don’t think Johnny will be ready to catch games at the start of exhibition,” manager Manny Acta said. “Neither one of them is going to be ready.”

That means Jesus Flores, last year’s backup catcher who has yet to report to camp because of visa problems, likely will get the most of the early catching, along with four catchers who are nonroster invitees — Humberto Cota, Wil Nieves, Javier Herrera and Chad Moeller.

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