Fick, Guillen file for free agency

Fick, Guillen file for free agency

WASHINGTON -- Nationals catcher/first baseman Robert Fick and outfielder Jose Guillen were two of 39 players to file for free agency on Monday, bringing the total of Nationals free agents to four.

Left fielder Alfonso Soriano and right-hander Tony Armas filed on Sunday. Right-hander Ramon Ortiz is the only other eligible member of the Nationals who has yet to file for free agency.

Fick and Guillen said over the weekend that they would like to return to Washington, but the chances of that happening are 50-50 at best.

The front office already told Fick the top priority is to look for a manager. Injuries limited Fick to 60 games in 2006. He hit .266 with two home runs and nine RBIs, and Washington was 11-7 when he started behind the plate.

What could keep Fick from coming back is the fact that he is a left-handed-hitting catcher and the Nationals already have one in Brian Schneider, who is the team's starter. The Nationals have a right-handed-hitting catcher in Brandon Harper, who was a pleasant surprise, and is the odds-on favorite to be Schneider's backup.

Guillen missed most of the second half because of right elbow reconstruction, but he has taken batting practice for about a week and said the elbow is getting stronger.

Guillen has been with Washington for two seasons. In 2005, he hit .283 with 24 home runs and 83 RBIs, but was plagued by left shoulder problems. Before missing the second half of 2006, Guillen hit .216 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs.

As far as next year goes, the Nationals are set with Austin Kearns in right field. If Soriano leaves, the team is willing to let Kory Casto or Ryan Church play left field. Those scenarios would leave Guillen without a position. Guillen is not considered a center fielder.

In other news, the Nationals had not called the Cardinals as of Monday night to seek permission to talk to third-base coach Jose Oquendo about their managerial vacancy, according to sources outside the Nationals organization. Oquendo is expected to interview for the Padres' managerial vacancy.

The Nationals' "think tank," which includes general manager Jim Bowden, assistant general managers Bob Boone and Mike Rizzo and team president Stan Kasten, has been tight-lipped about the search.

Also, John Russell told that he spoke to Bowden over the phone on Friday and had an introduction-type interview. Russell hopes to fly to Washington sometime this week to meet with Bowden and the rest of the staff.

Russell, 45, managed Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this past season. He was named the International League Manager of the Year as his team went 84-58.

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