Out of left field, Soriano calls Acta

Soriano makes call to Acta

WASHINGTON -- After Manny Acta was informed last week that he would be named the new manager of the Nationals, among the first congratulatory calls he received was from left fielder Alfonso Soriano, the person Acta benched during the World Baseball Classic.

Both Acta and Soriano are from the Dominican Republic and there is a belief that Acta may be able to convince Soriano, a free agent, to re-sign with the Nationals. But Acta sounded like someone who believed Soriano would sign elsewhere this offseason.

"I think my presence will help, but I think we all know it might take more than my presence here to bring Alfonso," Acta said Tuesday at his introductory news conference. "We would like to have him. It's going to be interesting. But if we don't get Fonzie, we are going to get two draft picks and they will be helpful for our farm system. We are going to have to move on."

Team president Stan Kasten was mum on the negotiation between Soriano and the Nationals. As of last weekend, Soriano is free to negotiate with any club for his services.

"I anticipate talking with [Soriano's] representatives. There is no way to know," Kasten said.

Re-signing Soriano isn't the only thing on Acta's mind. The Nationals are overhauling their starting rotation, one of the worst in baseball in 2006 and, as of now, John Patterson is the only guaranteed starter. Acta said he is not afraid to use young players such as Mike O'Connor and Matt Chico.

"It's a decision that's not only going to be made by me, but the whole organization will be on it. It's an opportunity for those kids to come to Spring Training and grab one of those jobs and run away with it like the Marlins did," Acta said.

Acta also has two shortstops in Cristian Guzman and Felipe Lopez and a second baseman -- Jose Vidro -- who had an off season. There is talk about switching Lopez to second base and maybe trading Vidro. Acta has not talked to the three players about his plan for them.

"Most of those problems solve themselves. First of all, we don't know if Guzman is going to be 100 percent coming into Spring Training. We don't know if Nick Johnson is 100 coining into Spring Training," Acta said. "In Spring Training, if one of those two guys [Guzman and Lopez] are not healthy, it will make it easier. But I would rather have that extra guy there. I wish we could have that problem in the starting rotation.

With Soriano possibly out of the mix, Acta must now look for a left fielder and a center fielder. Kory Casto, Ryan Church, Nook Logan and Alex Escobar will all be competing for those two spots, according to Acta. Logan is one person that has piqued the new skipper's interest.

"Logan played well during the month of September," he said. "Nook has a tool that never goes into a slump and that is speed, especially playing in spacious RFK Stadium. This team has not had a reliable center fielder the last three or four years. We are going to give him every opportunity to win the job."

In other news, Acta said that Kasten and general manager Jim Bowden would allow him to pick his own coaching staff. Acta said the staff would be a mixture of young and old. He already has a pitching coach in Randy St. Claire, who was retained by the club last month. Acta also said he most likely will not hire coaches from the Mets organization, the team he worked for the last two years as the third-base coach.

Also, Acta received a call from Frank Robinson, the skipper he replaced, on Tuesday morning.

"Frank said, 'I will always be here for you, kid. You can call me anytime.' That's wonderful to know that I could call Frank at anytime."

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