- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Washington Nationals’ roster probably won’t look any different at 4:01 p.m. Thursday than it did when the team took the field Wednesday night.

Though he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a last-minute transaction before Thursday’s nonwaiver trade deadline, general manager Jim Bowden indicated there hasn’t been enough interest in the club’s available veterans to assume there will be a trade.

“[Jon] Rauch was our one marketable guy that we traded,” Bowden said before Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies. “The others, there’s not much of a market for. Look, we’re a last-place team, and a lot of them are underachieving, so that’s not surprising.”

The Nationals have shopped around catcher Paul Lo Duca, infielder Felipe Lopez and pitchers Odalis Perez and Tim Redding. Redding, who started Wednesday night, is the only one who has drawn moderate interest, but Washington is leaning toward keeping the right-hander (who can’t become a free agent until 2011).

Indeed, a source close to Redding said the pitcher has held preliminary discussions with the club about a contract extension that could lock him up into his free agency period. The Nationals would like to have one veteran starter to help mentor their young rotation members and see Redding as a good fit.

“I’d like to have him on the team,” Bowden said. “But that being said, we have to explore every possibility. We wouldn’t be doing our job right if we didn’t.”

A deadline deal involving one of those four veterans is unlikely, but Bowden wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a swap of minor leaguers.

“I think we’re at a point now where most of our trade discussions are prospects for prospects,” he said.

Assuming the veterans aren’t traded, the Nationals do face decisions moving forward. The club would like to open up second base at some point so 23-year-old Emilio Bonifacio, acquired last week from Arizona for Rauch, can move up from Class AAA Columbus and start at the big league level.

That makes Lopez, who entered Wednesday’s game hitting .233 and making $4.9 million, a candidate to be designated for assignment. The same could hold true for Perez, who has allowed 14 runs over his last 15 innings and could be replaced in the rotation by rookie Garrett Mock.

Lo Duca appears less likely to be cut loose, in part because he’s needed at first base right now while both Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young are on the disabled list and because Bowden could still find a taker for the 36-year-old before the Aug. 31 waiver deadline.

Guzman’s MRI negative

An MRI taken Wednesday on Cristian Guzman‘s injured left thumb confirmed the club’s initial diagnosis of a bruise and no structural damage.

Guzman, who pinch-ran in Tuesday’s game, was not in the starting lineup Wednesday for the fourth straight game, and manager Manny Acta said the shortstop likely will need a couple of more days off before returning to hit.

Guzman remains the only member of Washington’s Opening Night lineup who has not spent time on the DL this season.

Casto to play some first

Acta said he would like to start getting Kory Casto more at-bats, and the most likely spot to find them would be at first base.

With Lastings Milledge back from a groin injury and Elijah Dukes expected to return from knee surgery soon, Casto has had few opportunities to crack the lineup as an outfielder.

Though Casto has limited experience at first base, Acta thinks it’s worth a shot to get him more playing time.

“I need to get Kory involved in getting some at-bats when I can because Kory is part of our future,” the manager said. “I’m going to work him in there a little bit.”

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