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Notes: Soriano keeps mind on game

Notes: Soriano keeps mind on game

WASHINGTON -- Left fielder Alfonso Soriano said on Sunday morning that he is surprised that his mentality at the plate has remained intact, considering he had to make big adjustments since the Nationals acquired his services this past winter.

Entering Sunday's action, Soriano is clearly the team's best offensive player, hitting .302 with 17 home runs and 34 RBIs. He is on pace to hit 54 home runs and drive in 108 runs. Soriano also has been decent defensively since making the switch from second base to the outfield. He leads the Major Leagues in outfield assists with nine.

"It was very difficult for me because I had to make a lot of changes -- the position, leagues and city. There were a lot of things that were on my mind, but I think my mind is so strong, I can put those problems [aside]," Soriano said. "I don't feel comfortable 100 percent. I don't have control of the situation. I just play the game and have fun."

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Soriano, who will be a free agent at season's end, said that he enjoys playing for the Nationals, but he is not sure if he will be with the team after October.

"I don't know. We have four months left. I have to think about it," Soriano said. "Now, I'm not going to think about free agency, because I'm focused on playing baseball."

Soriano an All-Star? Soriano believes it will be difficult to make the All-Star team this year because there are so many outfielders in the National League that have put up numbers similar to his. He felt that wasn't the case when he was a second baseman.

"There are not too many people at second base that have big numbers," Soriano said. "It's hard to make the team in left field."

Soriano is a four-time All-Star at second base and won the Ted Williams MVP award in 2004.

Injury report: After throwing a bullpen session on Saturday, pitcher John Patterson said that his right forearm is feeling good. Patterson will again throw batting practice on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

"It's getting to where I don't feel like I threw the baseball," Patterson said. "That's a good sign of arm strength and that everything is healing. It's good news for me."

The Nationals are hoping that Patterson will be ready to play in a big-league game by mid-June.

Catcher Matthew LeCroy was given a cortisone shot in his right elbow on Sunday afternooon. LeCroy started to feel pain in the elbow while attending a movie on Saturday night.

LeCroy was given an X-ray that revealed he has a bone spur in the elbow, but the doctors told LeCroy that was not the reason his elbow is hurting.

If the pain does not subside by Monday, LeCroy will have an MRI taken on the elbow. LeCroy said his elbow problems had nothing to do with the fact that he allowed the Astros to steal seven bases and committed two throwing errors last Thursday. He said the elbow was fine that day.

Who is in center? The Nationals have used five center fielders this season: Marlon Byrd, Ryan Church, Brandon Watson, Damian Jackson and Alex Escobar.

This past week, manager Frank Robinson started Jackson at the spot. But, after an unsuccessful attempt to place a bunt down and a throwing error on Saturday, Jackson was benched in favor of Byrd.

Center field has been an offensive liability for the Nationals. Those five players have hit a combined .225 with two home runs and five RBIs.

"I would like to have someone steady out there," said Robinson. "If you have someone steady out there, other guys don't play. It doesn't frustrate me that we have different guys out there."

Work out, baby, work out: After Sunday's game, high school position players Lars Anderson, Chris Parmelee, Billy Rowell, Cedric Hunter, Steve Englund, Stephen King, Dustin Dickerson, Chris Marrero, David Christensen and Kyle Page were all working out for the Nationals' think tank, which included Robinson, general manager Jim Bowden, scouting director Dana Brown and farm director Bob Boone.

All 10 players are expected to be selected in the 2006 First-year Player Draft. The workouts lasted almost two hours, and members of the think tank declined to comment.

Thank you, Tommy: Nationals hitting consultant Tommy McCraw, who was the team's hitting coach the last four years, was in Washington this weekend to help Nick Johnson get out of his slump. McCraw told Johnson to get closer to the plate and clear his mind, and it worked.

After watching his batting average dip to .275 on May 25, Johnson is 9-for-11 (.818) in his last three games and has his batting at .302.

Johnson has often credited McCraw for having his good season in 2005.

Send in your questions: The Nationals mailbag runs on Monday. Send in your questions now.

Stat of the day: Opponents have scored 42 runs in the first inning against the Nationals this season. Washington has scored 30 runs in the first inning this season.

Did you know? The Nationals are 0-5 when they play on Monday this season.

Coming up: The Nationals travel to Philadelphia to play a three-game series against the Phillies starting Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The last time the two teams met was April 18-20 with the Nationals taking two out of three games. The highlight of that series was on April 20, when Robinson won his 1,000th career game.

In Game 1 on Monday, left-hander Mike O'Connor (2-2, 2.65) will get the start for Washington, while right-hander Jon Lieber (3-5, 5.83) gets the nod for Philadelphia. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.

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

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