Notes: Soriano wants to stay in D.C.

Notes: Soriano wants to stay in D.C.

WASHINGTON -- Left fielder Alfonso Soriano said on Thursday afternoon that he wants to remain a member of the Washington Nationals because he likes the young talent and he wants to play in the new ballpark, which is expected to be completely built by 2008.

The news comes five months after he said that he didn't want to play left field, and would like to return to second base. But after leading the Majors in assists with 12 during the first half and making the National League All-Star team, he has changed his tune.

"I love the game," said Soriano. "I love this group here. I enjoy myself with these people. I want to continue to have a good time. I don't have a problem playing in left field. I enjoy playing left field."

It may not matter what Soriano thinks. He is on the trading block, and the Nationals want prospects in return before the July 31 trade deadline. The Angels are one potential team that may be interested in his services.

The Nationals already announced that rebuilding the farm system is the top priority, although incoming president Stan Kasten was pleased to hear that Soriano wanted to stay in Washington.

"It's the best news we could have," said Kasten. "It's fantastic because it is the first of what I'm sure will be many, many signals. The players are understanding what we are doing here.

"We are trying to build a team and a franchise that is a marquee franchise and we hope will become a magnet for all the best players, scouts, coaches and front-office personnel," he added. "It's very encouraging to have a player with such prominence, who is not only happy here, but would love to stay here."

Before the season started, the Nationals offered Soriano a five-year, $50 million contract, but Soriano turned it down.

A couple of weeks ago, Soriano's agent, Diego Bentz, was in the D.C. area to see his parents, but Bentz and general manager Jim Bowden didn't have any serious discussions about a contract extension for Soriano. As of Thursday, according to Soriano, Washington had not made a second offer.

"I'm not thinking about a contract. If they [want to give me a contract], they have to deal with my agent," Soriano said. "The Nationals know I want to stay here."

Making a change: The Nationals activated outfielder Alex Escobar from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday and optioned left-handed pitcher Mike O'Connor to Triple-A New Orleans.

O'Connor will continue to pitch on his regular turn. By rule, he is eligible to be recalled again on Monday, July 17, which is 10 days after the date of Thursday's option and just four games into the season's second half.

O'Connor last pitched on Wednesday against the Marlins and was hit hard, giving up five runs in an inning-plus. Manager Frank Robinson said he has noticed a pattern with O'Connor in his last two starts in which he gave up 10 runs in six innings.

General manager Jim Bowden said it was better for O'Connor to pitch in the Minor Leagues than sit for seven days. It still has not been determined when O'Connor will make his next start in the big leagues.

"He needs to work on command [and his] changeup. He wasn't sent down because of his performance," Bowden said.

Escobar had been out of action because of a hamstring strain. He recently went 11-for-35 (.314) with three doubles, one homer and eight RBIs during a 10-game rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg and the Gulf Coast Nationals.

Escobar, who is now the everyday center fielder, said he not 100 percent, but is ready to play.

"I feel comfortable enough to go out there and compete," said Escobar. "I'm not trying to do too much. I'm trying to be smart."

Injury report: Right fielder Jose Guillen said his right elbow is still sore. In fact, Robinson took him out of the game with two outs in the top of the 11th inning and replaced him with Damian Jackson.

Robinson didn't want to take the chance of Guillen being involved in a bang-bang play at the plate. Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez was on first base when Guillen left.

"It was just one of those situations where I was praying nothing would come to me," said Guillen. "I didn't want to make a throw from there."

Guillen said he hurt the elbow against the Marlins on Tuesday as he was making a throw back to the infield.

"Somebody hit a double down the line and I just felt something pop," said Guillen. "There is a lot of inflammation there. It's really sore."

Guillen more than likely will not play the remaining three games in the first half.

Outfielder Marlon Anderson left Thursday's game after two-plus innings because he reaggravated his left rib cage injury while chasing fly balls against the Marlins. Anderson said it wouldn't be wise to play the rest of the first half, and hopes to start playing again after the All-Star break.

Setting the tone: On Thursday, left-hander Micah Bowie, who was called up on Wednesday night, made his first Major League appearance since 2003 when he was with the Athletics. He relieved Livan Hernandez in the second inning and pitched 2 1/3 innings without giving up a run.

Bowie had missed the most of the last two years after elbow surgery.

"It means a lot to me to get up here in my first game back in three years -- to throw the ball and help the team win," Bowie said. "When you get on the field, it's is about making your pitches."

Coming up: The Nationals return to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium to play a three-game series against the Padres. Last season the Padres took five out of six games.

In Game 1, right-hander Ramon Ortiz (6-6, 4.90 ERA) will get the start for Washington, while right-hander Woody Williams (3-1, 3.04 ERA) gets the nod for San Diego.

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