- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nationals sign Bard to minor league deal

VIERA, Fla. — The question of who will back up Jesus Flores apparently isn’t decided yet.

The Washington Nationals signed former Red Sox catcher Josh Bard to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp Saturday, infusing some competition at a spot that was thought to be Wil Nieves’ to lose.

Bard, whom Boston released Wednesday, could make his debut in the next several days. He would earn $600,000 this season if he makes the major league team. He hit .202 with a home run and 16 RBI for San Diego last season and had five home runs and 51 RBI in 118 games for the Padres in 2007.

“As [recently] as ‘07, he’s a .285 hitter on a contending team and catching every day,” acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We think it’s going to be a good, competitive situation.”

The Nationals spoke glowingly of Nieves’ work with their young pitchers last season, and his offensive contributions (a .268 batting average and 20 RBI in 68 games) exceeded expectations. He has an advantage on Bard defensively but nothing near Bard’s offensive track record.

Washington’s choice between the two might come down to what it needs more — a reliable defender or a potent bat.

CARDINALS 12, NATIONALS 11

After 12 1/3 shutout innings this spring, Jordan Zimmermann caved under the weight of a 24-hour flu, a nasty wind and an opportunistic Cardinals lineup. The right-hander allowed five runs (four of them earned) on seven hits in two innings and left after throwing 48 pitches.

Manager Manny Acta said the Nationals had planned to cut short Zimmermann’s outing anyway for fear he would get dehydrated. Zimmermann’s fastball still touched 93 mph, but his breaking pitches were not nearly as sharp as they have been the rest of the spring.

The Cardinals took a 12-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth, but the Nationals roared back for 10 runs, including a wind-aided grand slam from Austin Kearns.

— Ben Goessling

TEMPERATURE CHECK

Jordan Zimmermann [DOWN]

Bad outing was bound to happen sometime; how will he respond?

Wind-aided home runs [UP]

Nothing like a left-to-right gust to inflate the spring stats

Terrell Young [DOWN]

Walked more hitters (three) than he retired (two)

BY THE NUMBERS

3.14 Spring ERA for Jordan Zimmermann’s after Saturday’s outing. His ERA entering the game was zero.

SUNDAY’S WEATHER

Washington: Sunny, 61 degrees

Viera: Showers, 72 degrees

THREE-DAY SCHEDULE

Sunday: vs. Astros in Kissimmee, 1 p.m.

Monday: vs. Cardinals in Jupiter, 1 p.m.

Tuesday: vs. Orioles in Fort Lauderdale, 1 p.m.

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