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Notes: Andruw connected to Nats

Notes: Andruw connected to Nats

ATLANTA -- When talking to Braves center fielder Andruw Jones, it sounds like Nationals team president Stan Kasten and bench coach Pat Corrales are like family to him. The three were together in Atlanta for most of Jones' career. Kasten and Corrales previously held similar roles with the Braves.

In fact, Jones calls Corrales one of his baseball "fathers" and fondly recalls Kasten as the guy who helped him get his first multi-year deal.

"Corrales is one of my fathers, just like [Braves manager] Bobby Cox," Jones said. "Seeing him on the other side is weird, but when we get on the field, we try to win. He knows a bunch of our secrets. Stan was the one that got me my first contract here. It's good to see people like that doing what they are doing."

Jones will be a free agent after the 2007 season and as the season winds down, there will be speculation on whether or not Jones would want to be reunited with Corrales and Kasten. Jones said he is not thinking about the future right now.

"My love is in Atlanta and I'm going to do my best to be here," Jones said. "But this is a business. Anything could happen. If something happens, whatever team comes with an offer to me and I see the team has a chance to win, I will do it."

Top of the order: Manager Manny Acta decided to move second baseman Ronnie Belliard from the eighth spot in the batting order to second because of Belliard's hot hitting. Belliard is 12-for-26 (.462) in his last seven games.

"He's hot, so we have to take advantage of his on-base percentage and good streak that he has right now," Acta said.

Left fielder Kory Casto, who was batting second most of the time, was benched in favor of Chris Snelling.

Eating crow: During the offseason, Ryan Church received a lot of criticism from fans and media outlets, wondering if he was ready to become an everyday player again. There were even reports during Spring Training that Church might lose his job to Snelling.

However, Church continues to prove his critics wrong. Entering Thursday's action, Church is hitting .355 with two home runs and a team-leading five RBIs. Church declined to give an "I told you so" speech. Instead, he talked about how relaxed he has been at the plate.

"I wasn't going to get caught up with what was being said," Church said. "I'm just going out there and thinking positive. I think the work that I've been putting in from Spring Training up to now with [hitting coach] Mitch [Page] is paying off."

Although he is not as skilled as Nook Logan defensively, Church is even showing signs of improvement in center field. He acknowledged that he needs to play deep in order to catch balls hit over his head. When Logan returns from the disabled list, Church will return to left field.

Minor League news: The Nationals reacquired free agent Brandon Watson on a Minor League contract on Monday. He is playing for Triple-A Columbus. The center fielder was with the Tigers in camp this spring. The Nationals signed Watson because outfielder Abraham Nunez is down with an injury.

Watson was the Nationals' Opening Day center fielder in 2006, but was sent down to Triple-A New Orleans before the end of April because of a lack of production.

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Stat of the day: Despite not starting the first two games, Belliard lead the Nationals in hits in with 12.

Did you know: The 2007 Nationals joined the 1970 and 1998 Expos by starting the season at 1-8. The '70 Expos didn't post their second win until their 12th game, while the '98 Expos recorded their second win in game No. 10.

Coming up: The Nationals travel to New York to begin a three-game series against the Mets on Friday night. Washington right-hander John Patterson will face New York right-hander Mike Pelfrey.

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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