Notes: Soriano needs work in outfield

Notes: Soriano needs work at new position

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals left fielder Alfonso Soriano played his fifth game of the spring on Sunday afternoon against the Astros, and he had a good day with the bat and an adventurous time with the glove.

With one out in the first inning, Astros switch-hitter Lance Berkman hit a line drive to left field. It looked like Soriano had a bead on the ball, but it went over his head for a double and Willy Taveras scored all the way from first base. Soriano said he saw Berkman make contact, but lost the ball once it went sailed past the infield.

"I'm trying to work a little bit more with the line drives," Soriano said. "This is my fourth game in left field. I feel [uncomfortable]. I hope to feel better everyday."

After that half-inning was over, Washington starter John Patterson gave Soriano a high-five and said, "Don't worry about [the error]."

Soriano responded to the vote of confidence in the bottom of the first inning by taking Brandon Backe's first pitch deep for his second home run of the spring. Soriano ended up going 2-for-4 with three runs scored in the game, and is hitting .357.

"I think you can expect that kind of thing from him," Patterson said. "If we don't get down on him and show confidence, he is going to learn. It's going to take a little while. He is going to get some runs back with his bat. You can expect him to make some mistakes, but we are going to hang in there with him."

In the seventh inning, Eric Munson hit a ball that Soriano thought was heading to shallow left field. But the ball carried and it dropped in front of him for a double. Soriano said he saw the ball, but he didn't think it would carry that far.

"It's going to be a work in progress," manager Frank Robinson said. "He got a little lesson today. We don't want to make the same kind of mistakes two or three times."

Soriano has yet to take outfield lessons from Jose Cardenal, the Nationals' special advisor to the general manager, because Soriano hasn't been available. However, Soriano is expected to take some pointers by Monday.

While the Nationals understand that it will take a while for Soriano to learn about being an outfielder, the team will not tolerate a lack of effort. In the second inning, Soriano popped up to second baseman Eric Bruntlett. Before the catch was made, Soriano didn't run hard to first base. According to a person in the dugout, Robinson gently told Soriano to run the bases harder next time, which he did when he grounded out in the sixth inning.

Let's deal? The Nationals and Tigers were in trade discussions, with Washington almost trading left-hander Joey Eischen to Detroit on Saturday afternoon, according to two baseball sources.

According to published reports, the Nationals were interested in outfielder Nook Logan, who has a lot of speed, but doesn't have much patience at the plate. If he came to Washington, Logan would be a reserve.

Had the Nationals traded Eischen, Bill Bray would have joined Mike Stanton as the lefties in the bullpen. Washington is really high on Bray, but some in the organization feel that he needs another year in Triple-A. Bray has eight strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings this spring.

One source also said that Washington is looking into the possibility of trading outfielder Michael Tucker, who has looked overmatched at times this spring. Entering Sunday's action, he was 5-for-32 (.156) with 11 strikeouts. He also has looked slow in the outfield.

However, Tucker had a two-run triple in the bottom of the eighth inning against the Astros on Sunday.

The Big Nasty: Patterson said he had his best outing of the spring on Sunday. He pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on five hits against the Astros. He struck out seven batters and walked one.

It helped that catcher Brian Schneider was working with Patterson for the first time this spring. Schneider spent most of the exhibition season at the World Baseball Classic.

"We just know each other. If I shake him off once, most of the time, he knows where I'm going on the next pitch," Patterson said. "It's almost like your favorite pair of shoes or something -- it just kind of fits. Everything falls in line. We like throwing to each other."

Injury report: Shortstop Cristian Guzman said his right shoulder is feeling much stronger and the Nationals' medical staff will allow him to throw the baseball on Monday. There is still a good chance that Guzman will need surgery because he has a SLAP tear in the shoulder. Guzman will start the season on the disabled list.

"I don't want to be on the DL too long," Guzman said.

Learning a lesson: A day after third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said that Spring Training is a little monotonous, Robinson talked to the rookie near the batting cage and told him to watch what he said. Robinson didn't like that Zimmerman wasn't that concerned about his defensive lapses.

"He said nothing was wrong with what I said, but it might have come out wrong," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman responded by hitting two two-run homers and making a spectacular backhanded play off the bat of Bruntlett in the eighth inning.

"I didn't think Saturday's ballgame was going to affect his overall performance or get him down," Robinson said. "This is exhibition season. Things happen out here that you hope don't happen during the course of the season."

Learning from the master: Jose Vidro was in a 7-for-38 (.184) slump entering Sunday's action, but after receiving hitting tips from Robinson, Vidro went 2-for-4 against the Astros, with two doubles.

Robinson told him to stand back, see the ball and trust his hands.

"That's what he did today and he looked pretty good," Robinson said.

Around the horn: Former Nationals outfielder Preston Wilson is 7-for-35 (.200) with 17 strikeouts for the Astros. ... Patterson went 1-for-2 in Sunday's game. ... Gary Majewski has a 29.70 ERA in four games.

Coming up: The Nationals travel to Jupiter. Fla., on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET, to face the Cardinals for the second time in less than a week. In the first game, St. Louis pounded Washington, 9-3.

Pedro Astacio will get the start for the Nationals, while Jason Marquis will get the nod for the Cardinals.

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