Notes: Kasten holds court at RFK

Notes: Kasten holds court at RFK

WASHINGTON -- Nationals team president Stan Kasten held a luncheon with the Washington beat writers at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium on Wednesday. The topics ranged from improving the Nationals for next year to stadium issues at the new Nationals Park.

Kasten reiterated that the best way to improve a club is getting players from the farm system and making trades. Since there are hardly any players from Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Columbus ready to join the big league club, the Nationals most likely will have to make trades.

Kasten said the team most likely would not sign free agents for outrageous prices. He does, however, expect payroll to go up, but he didn't know how much on Wednesday. The Nationals' Opening Day payroll for 2007 was $37 million.

Kasten is willing to have free agents sign reasonable contracts similar to the ones signed by infielders Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young. Both players signed two-year extensions worth $3.5 and $10 million, respectively.

"We'll be talking to everyone. That I can promise you," Kasten said about free agents. "But I don't think going after the big free agents is a way to build this team. ... There are a top tier that will be overpaid, I imagine. For that reason, I wouldn't be interested in those players. There are a second tier of players. They also will be overpaid, but I wouldn't be interested in those because they are second-tier players."

More from Kasten: The team will have their minority internship scouting program from Oct 1-9 in Veira, Fla. Six people -- five African Americans and one Asian person -- will get to watch the team's instructional games and learn the techniques of scouting. They also will learn about the draft and waiver rules.

The Nationals held a large reception at RFK on Wednesday for ambassadors from countries such as Japan, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Canada. Kasten said the team is trying to establish relationships with the ambassadors, who could tell players from those countries how great it would be to play for the Nationals.

Kasten said he expects all of the luxury suites at Nationals Park to be sold by Opening Day. The Washington and Lincoln suites are already sold out.

There is no word on the naming of the new stadium. Kasten hopes to have it done by Opening Day.

Manager Manny Acta has another year left on his contract, but has two one-year options which have not been picked up. Kasten would not talk about the team potentially picking up the options.

In the booth: According to multiple sources, Bob Carpenter was informed that he will not return as the TV play-by-play voice of the Nationals. He was given the news early this week.

When asked on Tuesday if such a move was made, Kasten said, "No decision has been made."

Carpenter, who is employed by Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, declined to comment.

The Nationals will be looking for their third play-by-play voice on TV in four years. Carpenter replaced Mel Proctor after the 2005 season.

Showing concern: Agent Stanley King, who represents shortstop Cristian Guzman, visited general manager Jim Bowden on Wednesday. King wanted to know where Guzman stood with the club. The agent grew concerned after the team signed Belliard to an extension and made Felipe Lopez the shortstop after Guzman went down with a thumb injury.

According to King, Bowden gave Guzman a vote of confidence and said that the latter was in good standing with the club. There was no talk of a contract extension during the meeting. Guzman is a free agent after the 2008 season.

Injury report: Guzman took batting practice for the second consecutive afternoon and didn't have any problems swinging the bat. He will have a simulated game on Thursday with left-hander Ross Detwiler throwing on the mound for two innings.

Young did not start for the fourth consecutive game because of a headache and sore neck. He suffered the injury on Saturday, when a ground ball off Mark Teixeira's bat hit Young on the right side of his head.

Heads up: Sunday's game against the Phillies will begin at 12:05 p.m. ET. The contest was originally slated for a 1:35 start. At least seven former members of the Washington Senators will be at the game, including Frank Howard and Mike Epstein.

To close out the postgame ceremonies, the winners of the "Jerseys Off Their Backs" raffle will be brought to the field to meet the player whose jersey they have won and to claim their prize.

Following the jersey presentation, home plate will be dug up to be transported to Nationals Park at a later date. The festivities will conclude with a video tribute to RFK Stadium, along with a fireworks display.

Stat of the day: Entering Wednesday's action, the Nationals are tied with the Rockies for hitting into the most double plays in the National League this season.

Did you know? Entering Wednesday's action, Young was hitting .366 at Robert F. Kennedy stadium, while Ryan Zimmerman had a .398 batting average against left-handers this season.

Coming up: The Nationals remain at RFK to play a four-game series against the Phillies starting Thursday night. The last time these two teams met was in mid-August, with the Phillies taking two out of three games at RFK. In Game 1 at 7:05 p.m. ET, Washington right-hander Jason Bergmann will face Philadelphia right-hander Lyle Lohse.

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