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Notes: Catching vacancy a priority

Notes: Catching vacancy a priority

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said that it was very important to acquire a catcher soon. And it appears that the club is looking for a starting backstop.

Jesus Flores, a Rule 5 Draft pick last December, impressed the Nationals during his rookie season. He hit .244 with four home runs and 25 RBIs, and found himself in a platoon with Brian Schneider during the month of September.

But on Tuesday, Bowden sounded like a man who would prefer to have Flores develop his skills in the Minor Leagues.

"He is going to develop into a No. 1 catcher," Bowden said. "In an ideal world, do I think a player that was in Class A ball, in the Rule 5 Draft and went to the big leagues as a backup catcher should be thrown in the No. 1 role? No, I don't think that is the best way to develop a player.

"That does not mean it might not happen. It depends what we are able to do."

It was learned through a baseball source that the Nationals have interest in Arizona catcher Miguel Montero, who platooned with Chris Snyder last year. In 84 games, Montero, a left-handed hitter, played in 84 games and hit .224 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs. If he became a member of the Nationals, Montero could platoon with Flores.

Johnny Estrada is another catcher who has been mentioned as a potential fit with the Nationals. He currently a member of the Mets, but after acquiring Schneider, Estrada became expendable and will most likely be non-tendered next week.

A source close to Estrada said the switch-hitting catcher believes the Nationals would be a perfect fit for him. He has an understanding that he would be a National for one year.

The source also acknowledged that Estrada had problems with pitching coaches in Arizona and Milwaukee, and felt that Estrada should have handled the situation a little better.

If he signs with the Nationals, Estrada has to realize that pitching coach Randy St. Claire is the leader of the pitching staff.

Winter Meetings

"I'm going to tell you the leader we have on our pitching staff. It's Randy St. Claire," manager Manny Acta said. "He spent countless hours studying videos, opposition and looking at stats and working the mechanics of these guys."

According to two sources, Washington has free agent Damian Miller on top of its list. Miller, who is best remembered for his years with the Diamondbacks, has been a starter most of his career, but was a backup for the first time with the Brewers in 2007. In 58 games, Miller, 38, hit .237 with four home runs and 24 RBIs.

Clippard deal to be confirmed: The trade to acquire right-hander Tyler Clippard from the Yankees for right-handed reliever Jonathan Albaladejo will be announced on Wednesday. Clippard took and passed his physical on Tuesday, while Albaladejo will take his physical on Wednesday.

Pitching and more pitching: The Nationals would love to have right-hander Bartolo Colon on their pitching staff, but they believe he would not accept a one-year deal. Colon had another injury-plagued season in which he went 6-8 with a 6.34 ERA with the Angels. Colon had right elbow and back problems.

The Nationals also have interest in right-hander Kazuo Fukumori, who, according to one source, could be a starter or reliever.

Top of the lineup: The Nationals need a leadoff hitter, but they have no interest in Kenny Lofton or David Eckstein. Bowden acknowledged that they have nothing in the organization that could help the team right now. Bowden said the team most likely will have to trade for a top prospect, who can leadoff.

For now, Cristian Guzman appears to be the likely candidate to be the leadoff hitter. Guzman is recovering from a left thumb injury and is expected to play winter ball early next year.

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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{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }
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