Nats bring Fick, Eischen on board

Nats bring Fick, Eischen on board

The Nationals signed first baseman/outfielder Robert Fick and left-handed pitcher Joey Eischen to one-year contracts on Tuesday.

The left-handed-hitting Fick will be a backup outfielder/first baseman and emergency catcher. This past season, the 31-year-old hit .265 with three home runs and 30 RBIs for the Padres.

Fick joins infielders Damian Jackson and Marlon Anderson in forming a bench that addresses defensive versatility and pinch-hitting experience (combined .267 average with nine homers and 51 RBIs in 2005).

Fick, who will make $850,000 this coming season, will be reunited with manager Frank Robinson. Their relationship goes back to the Arizona Fall League in the late 1990s, when Robinson was director of baseball operations and Fick was a player in the Tigers organization. Robinson took Fick under his wing after the latter became known for using foul language against umpires.

"Frank took a liking to me," Fick said. "He knows the kind of guy I am and how I play the game, and he respects that. How can you not respect him? He has done a lot for baseball."

When he was the vice president of on-field operations, Robinson suspended Fick for fighting in 2000 and 2001.

Fick was signed on the recommendation of Robinson, assistant general manager Bob Boone and scouting director Dana Brown.

Fick also impressed general manager Jim Bowden during the interview process. Fick told Bowden that he wanted to be the No. 2 catcher, back up Nick Johnson at first base and be a fourth outfielder. Fick also told Bowden he learned to be a successful reserve because of former Padres teammate Mark Sweeney.

"Robert Fick has really embraced the new role. Mark Sweeney helped him a lot last year, tutoring him how to prepare to pinch-hit," Bowden said. "Fick can be our second or third catcher. [First baseman] Nick Johnson had been injured a lot in his career. Fick has proven he can play every day at first base. He can give us the left-handed bat that we lost with Terrmel Sledge being traded to Texas. He has a little flair in the clubhouse."

Eischen was a free agent this offseason, but the Nationals offered him arbitration last week. Eischen, 35, will return for a fifth consecutive season with the Nationals/Expos organization and continue to be part of one of the best bullpens in baseball. He is expected to make $1.3 million next season.

In 2005, Eischen missed most of the first half of the season because of a broken right radius, but he managed to finish the season strong with a 3.22 ERA out of the bullpen.

"I'm excited to be back with the guys on the team, especially the bullpen guys," Eischen said. "I want to help Frank get his 1,000th win. With the addition of Alfonso Soriano and some other people Mr. Bowden is going to go after, I'm ready to go to war again."

In other news, the Nationals signed catchers Wiki Gonzalez, Mike DiFelice, Alberto Castillo and Brandon Harper to Minor League contracts.

Gonzalez played 14 games for the Mariners this past season and hit .267 with two RBIs.

DiFelice has played 10 years in the big leagues and is best known for his years with the Cardinals. He played briefly for the Mets in 2005 and went 2-for-17 (.111) in 11 games.

Last season, Castillo batted .208 with 14 RBIs in 35 games for Kansas City and Oakland sandwiched around a stint with Triple-A Sacramento.

Harper was Florida's fourth-round selection in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft. Last season, he hit .246 with six home runs and 34 RBIs in 81 games for Triple-A Toledo.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.