Notes: Kasten eyes end to search

Notes: Kasten eyes end to skipper search

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals held a luncheon with Washington beat writers on Friday, and team president Stan Kasten said he is hoping the franchise will name a manager within the next two weeks. It marked the first time since the season ended that Kasten has talked about the search.

The Nationals have been looking for a skipper since Sept. 30, when Kasten and general manager Jim Bowden told Frank Robinson that he would not be back with the team for the 2007 season.

As is his custom, Kasten declined to name the candidates. The Nationals have interviewed Mets third-base coach Manny Acta, Pirates Minor League manager Trent Jewett, Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton and former Marlins manager Joe Girardi. Both Girardi and Pendleton took themselves out of the mix almost two weeks ago.

"We have moved into another phase, and I think, maybe within two weeks, maybe sooner than that, [we'll make an announcement]," Kasten said. "It has been a fantastic process. We did not start it until after the season ended. We have spent an awful lot of time because we have the time. There wasn't any rush or any deadline."

There have been reports that the managerial search has not gone smoothly, but Kasten denied the charge.

"It has been orderly, methodical and professional, and the most important things that didn't need to get leaked, were not leaked," Kasten said. "There are only two human beings in the whole world that know all the things that are going on, and that's me and Jim."

Minor setback: First baseman Nick Johnson will have arthroscopic surgery in Sacramento on Monday to remove scar tissue from his right leg, which he broke in a collision with right fielder Austin Kearns at Shea Stadium on Sept. 23.

According to Bowden, Johnson is having problems moving his leg, which has a titanium rod and three screws -- one near the hip and two above the right knee.

"The scar tissue is preventing him from getting a range of motion and the mobility that he wants," Bowden said, "but [team orthopedist] Dr. [Ben] Schaffer feels this will not affect [Johnson's] timetable. It happens quite often after that type of surgery. It's nothing to be concerned about."

Bowden believes Johnson will be ready for Spring Training and he is basing it on what happened to outfielder Ron Gant in early 1994. As a member of the Braves, Gant broke his leg in a motor cycle accident. After the Braves released the outfielder, Bowden signed Gant to a contract with the Reds and Gant went on to win Comeback Player of the Year in 1995.

Offseason planning: Kasten and Bowden said the Nationals are not planning to sign big-name free agents this offseason. Instead, they are planning to sign a lot of six-year Minor League free agents, make trades and sign Major League free agents at a cheap price.

Neither Kasten nor Bowden would talk about the possibility of re-signing Alfonso Soriano, their only big-name free agent. In a poll, 889 people voted as of 5:15 p.m. ET, and 74 percent of them believe that Soriano will not be back with the team.

A dilemma: With Cristian Guzman coming back from shoulder surgery in 2007, the Nationals have two starting shortstops, including Felipe Lopez. Bowden did not want to divulge his plans for the two players. The Nationals also have to decided what to do with second baseman Jose Vidro, who had a disappointing season with the bat and glove. The Nationals could switch Lopez to second base and try to trade Vidro, who has two years left on his contract.

Bowden also said the new manager will also decide where the three players will fit on the team.

"I never think it's a problem when you have too many players at a position, because there are other teams that will need their access," Bowden said.

Free to go: Wiki Gonzalez, Marlon Byrd, Tyrell Godwin, George Lombard, Mike Vento, Roy Corcoran, Kevin Gryboski, Travis Hughes, Steve Watkins, Melvin Dorta and Henry Mateo decided to test the free-agent market, according to farm director Andy Dunn. All except for Godwin and Watkins played for the Nationals this season.

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