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Notes: Fick hopes to stay with Nats

Notes: Fick hopes to stay with Nats

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WASHINGTON -- Nationals catcher/first baseman Robert Fick said on Thursday that the 2006 season has been a rough one for him. He was placed on the disabled list twice for elbow and rib cartilage injuries, has felt he been trying to play catchup the whole year, and it didn't help that the team has been losing.

Fick has played in a season-low 39 games and was hitting .233 with two home runs and six RBIs entering Thursday's game. He's not expected to get much playing time the rest of the way because the catcher's spot belongs to Brian Schneider, Nick Johnson is the everyday first baseman and right field is Austin Kearns' position.

"I'm not making any excuses, but I would have liked to hit the ball better," Fick said. "I'm not an idiot. I know there hasn't been much opportunity for me to get any type of consistent playing time. Nobody is to blame. It is what it is. I signed here to be a bench player.

"I think I proved to them that there are some positives. I've shown that I can play the outfield. I can play first base and most of all, I can catch, and when I catch, I'm a winner back there."

Fick also said that he wants to remain with the Nationals beyond this season. He said his agent spoke to general manager Jim Bowden when the team was in San Diego about Fick staying another year. His agent advised the veteran to continue to work hard the rest of the season.

"It's easy to be a backup when you respect the guys who are playing your position," Fick said. "So I have an easy time looking at the lineup card in seeing Brian Schneider's name, Nick Johnson's name."

Just one man's opinion: Alfonso Soriano leads the Nationals in home runs with 43. He has quieted the complaints of players who have said it is hard to hit a home run at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. However, Soriano said on Thursday that he wouldn't mind seeing the fences moved in next year.

"If you see this park and you see the other parks, this park is ... bigger," Soriano said. "I think we have to do that, but my job is [to] play the game, and I cannot say to the owner or the manager or somebody to bring the fence in."

The dimensions are some of the biggest in baseball. The corners -- left and right field -- are 335 feet, left-center and right-center are 380, and center field is 410.

Don't read anything into it: Catcher Brandon Harper started his second consecutive game against a left-hander on Thursday. Manager Frank Robinson said there will not be a platoon between Schneider and Harper, adding that the team just wants to give Harper a long look and give Schneider a break. Robinson has often praised Schneider for the way he handles left-handed pitchers.

Injury report: Left-hander Mike O'Connor told MLB.com on Thursday that he will pitch for Triple-A New Orleans on Friday and throw three innings against Memphis. The news comes two days after he threw a simulated game without any problems.

Friday will mark O'Connor's first professional game since hurting his elbow on July 29 against the Dodgers. O'Connor has been on the disabled list since July 30.

"I've been slow coming back," O'Connor said. "I'm close to 100 percent. The team didn't want to rush me back."

After the start, on Friday, O'Connor doesn't know if he will return to the Nationals. He has not been told what the team's plans for him are the rest of the season.

The Nationals were hoping that O'Connor would pitch against the Diamondbacks on Saturday, but Jason Bergmann will take the mound that day. It will be Bergmann's first start since Aug. 22 against the Marlins.

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

Zimmerman bunts again: With another bunt single on Thursday, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has 10 this season and has never been thrown out.

Did you know? Fick was a child actor in the 1980s. He was an extra in "Cheers," "Who's the Boss?" and "Webster." He made $130 per day working on TV shows. Fick also did a Gatorade commercial at age 13.

Coming up: The Nationals open a three-game series against the Diamondbacks on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET at RFK Stadium. The last time these teams met was last season, with the Nationals taking four out of six.

In the opener, left-hander Billy Traber takes the mound for Washington, while right-hander Miguel Batista goes to the hill for Arizona.

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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