Notes: Waivers surprise Soriano

Notes: Waivers surprise Soriano

WASHINGTON -- Left fielder Alfonso Soriano was surprised to learn that he was placed on waivers on Tuesday. He figured that since he wasn't traded before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, he would remain with the Nationals for the rest of the season.

It's highly unlikely that Soriano will pass through waivers. If a team claims him -- National League teams have first crack at him -- the Nationals have two business days to make a deal with that club or pull Soriano off waivers. If the Nationals pulled Soriano back, he would be in Washington for the rest of the season.

"I don't know what to think," Soriano said. "It happened to me in Texas, too. But I'm surprised [the Nationals] put me on waivers. But as I always said, it's as if it's part of the game. If they didn't trade me before the trade deadline, why are they going to put me on waivers now?"

Soriano, who will be a free agent after the season, said he and the Nationals are not negotiating a contract. He wants to wait until after the season, a stance repeated by his agent, Diego Bentz.

"It's not easy to [negotiate a contract] at this point, like we negotiate now and tomorrow we have a deal," Soriano said. "It takes [a long time]. [The Nationals] will have the first opportunity when I become a free agent. I hope everything works out for me and the team. Like I said before, I like it here, and I like my teammates and I like the city. They have the option, if I stay or I'm leaving."

Nats ink another pick: The Nationals signed third-round selection Stephen King to a contract with a $750,000 signing bonus. He is a shortstop from Winter Park (Fla.) High School. The Nationals have now signed seven of their top eight picks from the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

"Looking back at the draft this year, it's turned out to be a real successful endeavor for us," assistant general manager Mike Rizzo said. "We filled a lot of needs we wanted to. We feel we got some depth into the system that we felt we needed. We checked off all the boxes that we are trying to check off."

King, a right-handed hitter, earned First-Team All-Central Florida honors and All-Metro Conference accolades this season after batting .355 with five home runs and 23 steals with Winter Park.

Right-hander Sean Black is the only one of the eight that is unsigned, and the two sides are far apart on an agreement. The Nationals have until Sept. 5 to sign Black -- the day he is scheduled to attend classes at Seton Hall. If the two parties don't agree on a deal, Black could not leave school until after his junior year.

Injury report: Right-hander Colton Willems, one of the team's first-round picks in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, will not pitch again this season for the Gulf Coast Nationals because of arm fatigue. An MRI didn't reveal any structural damage.

Jose Vidro, on the disabled list because of a left hamstring strain, played in his second straight game for Double-A Harrisburg and went 1-for-3 with a single up the middle. Vidro could be activated on Friday.

He's the man: Manager Frank Robinson announced that Alex Escobar will be the everyday center fielder for the rest of the season, leaving Ryan Church on the bench. The Nationals want to see what they have in Escobar, who has great potential despite his struggles with injuries.

Both Escobar and Robinson acknowledged that Escobar is still playing with hamstring problems and will not be 100 percent until next season. Escobar, one of the hardest working players on the Nationals, is often spotted working on his legs hours before games.

Escobar is hitting .324 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in 27 games.

Be a part of the mailbag: The Nationals mailbag runs on Monday. Send in your questions now.

Stat of the day: The Nationals have used 26 pitchers this season, one shy of the franchise record set by the 2000 Expos.

Did you know? Right-hander Pedro Astacio used the fewest pitches to throw a nine-inning shutout in the history of the franchise since 1988, according to STATS, Inc. Astacio threw just 89 pitches against the Braves on Tuesday night.

Coming up: The Nationals play the finale of their four-game series against the Braves on Thursday.

Right-hander Jason Bergmann will take the mound for Washington, while righty Oscar Villarreal goes to the hill for Atlanta.

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