Ohka interested in returning

Ohka interested in returning

WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Tomo Ohka is interested in returning to the Nationals, according to his agent, Jim Masteralexis.

The news comes more than a year after the team traded Ohka to the Brewers for second baseman Junior Spivey in a deal that general manager Jim Bowden called his biggest mistake during the 2005 season. An e-mail to Bowden seeking comment was not returned.

"There are a number of teams that Tomo has interest in," Masteralexis said. "I think his experience in Washington, overall, was positive regarding the team and the city. So, yes, Tomo has interest in Washington. There is such promise in Washington with the new stadium. I think it would be an excellent place for Tomo to play."

After leaving Washington, the 30-year-old Ohka went 8-8 with a 4.29 ERA in 28 games for Milwaukee. But he could be a bargain for the Nationals because he is coming off an injury-plagued season in 2006.

Ohka missed time last year because of injuries to his right shoulder and hamstring. He did not pitch from May 2 to July 17 because of a right rotator cuff problem that did not require surgery. He also missed the final two weeks of the season after he strained his right hamstring running the bases against the Nationals in Washington.

"His arm is healthy, and I think it was proven that he came back to throw at the end of the year, and then unfortunately, he pulled his hamstring," Masteralexis said. "He is completely healthy [now]."

Ohka played with the Expos/Nationals for three-plus seasons. His best year was 2002, when he went 13-8 with a 3.18 ERA. His departure from the Nationals came after conflicts with then-manager Frank Robinson. After moving in and out of the rotation in 2005, Ohka went to Robinson and Bowden on May 9 and told them he wanted to be traded after being demoted to the bullpen.

The relationship between Ohka and Robinson reached its boiling point on June 4, when Ohka turned his back as Robinson walked toward the mound to remove the hurler. Robinson then snatched the ball out of Ohka's hand. Ohka was fined $1,000 for the incident.

A source close to Ohka said this past summer that the right-hander was willing to return to the Nationals as long as Robinson was not with the team. Robinson was not retained as manager after the season, but Masteralexis said that the relationship was not as bad as some people thought.

"Contrary to popular belief, Frank and Tomo got along more times than they didn't get along," Masteralexis said. "For whatever reason, the team decided to make a change [in 2005]."

According to published reports, the Red Sox and Mariners also are interested in Ohka.

In other Nationals news, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was a unanimous selection as the third baseman on the Topps Major League Rookie All-Star Team. Zimmerman led Major League rookies with 110 RBIs, 25 go-ahead RBIs, 47 doubles and 61 walks. He also led the Majors with 64 hits with runners in scoring position.

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