Notes: MVP unlikely for Soriano

Notes: MVP unlikely for Soriano

PHILADELPHIA -- Left fielder Alfonso Soriano is clearly the Nationals' most valuable player in 2006. Entering Saturday's action, he was hitting .294 with 39 home runs, 79 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. He also leads the Major Leagues in outfield assists with 19.

But manager Frank Robinson doesn't see Soriano -- who hit his career-high 40th homer in the fifth inning on Saturday night -- getting enough votes for the National League MVP because the Nationals are in fifth place.

"You have to be an awful powerful candidate to win MVP from a last-place team," Robinson said. "He doesn't lead the league in home runs. He is not leading the league in stolen bases. [The numbers are] nice, but I cannot see him as one of the top candidates. He's the MVP of this ballclub. He certainly put up some nice numbers, but as far as being a strong candidate for MVP, no. That's a little stretch."

Even Soriano believes he will not be a top candidate for the NL MVP Award.

"To win the MVP, the team has to go to the playoffs. That would be very difficult to think about the MVP," he said.

Soriano started his career with the Yankees, and in his three full seasons in the Bronx, he was in the World Series twice and advanced to the playoffs the other season. But in the last three seasons -- two with the Rangers and the current one with the Nationals -- he hasn't come close to the postseason, and it bothers him. In fact, he said that winning will be a factor with where he ends up after he becomes a free agent this offseason.

"My first three years, I made it to the playoffs," Soriano said. "And the last three years, I don't make the playoffs. I learned from the Yankees that winning is more important than anything. If we don't win, I'm not happy. Whatever I do is fine, but I'm more happy when I win. I played three [full] years with the Yankees and they taught me to win.

"Winning is a big part. But, like I said, this team has the first choice, because I believe in the owner, I believe in the GM and everybody here that they can put a very good team together for next year. We have a lot of young guys that can be [competitive] and go to the playoffs."

What's wrong with the big man? Right-hander Jon Rauch has given up a home run in each his last three outings. Robinson believes that Rauch is not thinking out of the box when he's been pitching lately.

"The only thing that concerns me with Jon is getting behind hitters -- he feels like he can throw the fastball," Robinson said. "He shows no imagination or anything about pitch selection."

When asked if Rauch should have thrown a breaking ball in a fastball count, Robinson said, "You have to do that up here. I don't mean every time, but you have to be able to do that whenever you feel like it's the thing to do. You can't sit out there and throw fastballs.

"I don't know where the pitchers were, but location played a part of it. Any time you are throwing pitches, you have to be able throw something other than a fastball to be successful. Clubs do it to our hitters."

Rauch declined to talk to MLB.com about Robinson's comments.

Injury report: Catcher Robert Fick, on the disabled list since Aug. 1 because of left rib cartilage separation, will start his rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg on Monday. The Nationals don't know how long his rehab assignment will last.

Fick is hitting .244 with two home runs and six RBIs for the Nationals this season.

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

Stat of the day: The Nationals, who faced lefty Cole Hamels on Saturday and take on southpaw Randy Wolf on Sunday, were 19-15 against left-handed starters this season entering Saturday's game.

Did you know? Second baseman Jose Vidro is hitting .286 with three home runs and 18 RBIs since May 1.

Coming up: The Nationals play the finale of a three-game series against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET. Right-hander Pedro Astacio takes the mound for Washington, while Wolf goes to the hill for Philadelphia.

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