Thursday, February 24, 2005

VIERA, Fla — Charlie Slowes, former play-by-play voice of the Washington Bullets, and David Shea, the radio voice of the Boston Bruins, were named by the Washington Nationals yesterday as the team’s radio announcers.

Slowes, in Washington from 1986 to 1997, has spent the last seven seasons as the play-by-play announcer for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Beyond his tenure in Boston, Shea worked the Minnesota Timberwolves’ debut season in 1989 and boasts more than 20 years in sports broadcasting encompassing minor league baseball, college hockey, college basketball and pro soccer.

Shea and Slowes were chosen after an intensive search by Nationals officials that included more than 100 applicants. Team president Tony Tavares said yesterday Elliott Price, a broadcaster with the Montreal Expos since 1989, would have been one of the two selections had he and the team been able to solve immigration and visa issues that prevented him coming to the United States to take the radio job. Tavares consulted two attorneys regarding Price without resolution.

“I don’t want to diminish what we have. I am ecstatic for Charlie and David, both very solid pros, but I am disappointed for Elliott,” Tavares said.

The pair will start March 5 when the Nationals play Baltimore in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Slowes said he jumped at the chance to return to Washington.

“I was there for 11 years. It’s really where I established myself as a play-by-play guy in a major market and showed I could have some staying power,” Slowes said. “The only reason I left was that I thought I had a better opportunity at the time. And the reason I’m coming back is I definitely have a better opportunity at this time.”

Armas to open

Tony Armas Jr. will start for the Nationals in their exhibition opener Wednesday against the New York Mets at Space Coast Stadium, manager Frank Robinson said yesterday.

Robinson said Armas will get the nod mostly because of the calendar.

“That’s the way the schedule works out. We set it up for Opening Day,” Robinson said. “Two innings.”

It will be Armas’ first chance to show he has recovered completely after missing parts of two seasons after shoulder surgery in 2003.

“That’s the good part. I’m happy about that,” Armas said. “It doesn’t matter if it was going to be the first [game], second, or third, fourth, whatever. I don’t care. I just want to be out there.”

Armas went 2-4 with a 4.88 ERA in an injury-plagued season last year with the Montreal Expos. The right-hander made 16 starts but missed the first 49 games because of his on-going shoulder problems.

This winter in his native Venezuela, Armas allowed just two earned runs in 14 innings in the Venezuelan Winter League.

On Wednesday, he threw batting practice and showed no sign of shoulder trouble. Even though it’s only an exhibition game, this game has meaning.

“It does count because every time you go out there it counts,” Armas said. “It doesn’t matter if you throw BP or whatever, you just want to do your job and throw strikes.”

Dominican operation

Jose Rijo, special assistant to Nationals interim general manager Jim Bowden, signed four prospects in the Dominican Republic, where he is looking at players, according to Bowden.

The franchise traditionally had done a great job of developing Latin talent, including second baseman Jose Vidro, Vladimir Guerrero and Andres Galarraga, but backed off the last two years because Major League Baseball owned the team.

“We need to sign more Latin players,” Bowden said. “We haven’t signed enough in the last few years. Forty percent of the big leaguers are Latin American, and in the last two years we haven’t been aggressive doing it. We’re aggressive now.”

DCSEC paying for mayor

The D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission will pick up most of the tab for Mayor Anthony A. Williams to travel to Florida to see the Nationals’ exhibition games March 5 and 6. Williams and other city officials had been unable to specify the funding source when they announced the trip Wednesday. Taxpayers will pay the mayor’s first night of lodging; he will tour the Miami Public Library on March 5 before seeing the Nationals play Baltimore.

The travel roster has not been set beyond the mayor and sports commission chairman Mark Tuohey, but each member of the D.C. Council has been invited.

Extra bases

Reliever Antonio Osuna, the only player on the Nationals 40-man roster not in camp, is expected to report later tonight and throw some tomorrow. Osuna was excused to attend to a family illness in his native Mexico. …

The Nationals came to terms with outfielder Endy Chavez. Pitchers Zach Day and Luis Ayala and infielder Henry Mateo are the only unsigned players on the club’s 40-man roster.

• Fisher reported from Washington. Staff writer Mark Zuckerman contributed to this article.

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