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Notes: Boone joins big league camp

Notes: Boone joins big league camp

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VIERA, Fla. -- Second baseman Bret Boone was seen in the Space Coast Stadium clubhouse on Saturday morning. It turns out that he was in front of his own locker as the Nationals invited him to big league camp.

The original plan was to have Boone, 38, play with the Minor Leaguers in the Accelerated Development Program, but general manager Jim Bowden felt that Boone was ready to play with the Major Leaguers because he is in great shape and still has the bat speed. To get more at-bats, Boone will also play in the accelerated-camp games in the morning and the Major League exhibition games in the afternoon.

"He's doing extremely well here, and he can certainly compete with everybody that's here," Bowden said. "So to hold him back for another four or five days would be foolish for what we are trying to do. Our window is pretty short with him. We didn't think he would be this far in advance. It's not like we are in a situation where we need him to lose weight. His body fat is 7 percent. It ranks second in the entire camp. His bat speed was like it was four or five years ago."

Boone, who was signed to Minor League deal last Monday, wants to be the starting second baseman and declined to accept a lesser role or play different positions. Bowden already announced early in the week that the team doesn't need a second baseman.

"Jim is the GM, and I'm going to do what he says I'm going to do," Boone said. "I'm going to get ready and see how it goes. So far, so good."

Their side of the story: Bowden confirmed on Saturday that the team is not close to giving a multiyear deal to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

Vowing not to break the bank, the Nationals are willing to give Zimmerman a contract that is similar to Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki , who signed a six-year, $31 million contract Jan. 23.

According to Zimmerman's agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, he expects his client's contract to be automatically renewed. Zimmerman has less than three years of service time, and the Nationals can automatically renew his contract for 2008 before the March 11 deadline.

"We have tremendous respect for Brodie Van Wagenen and Ryan. We have a great relationship," Bowden said. "We made it very clear to Brodie and to Zim that if Ryan is willing to sign a contract that is somewhere to what all the other good young players are signing for, we are prepared to do that with him. We are not going to change the pay scale for one player."

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Last March, the Nationals renewed Zimmerman's contract for $400,000. Zimmerman is eligible for salary arbitration following the 2008 season and can file for free agency three years after that.

Odalis in the house: Left-hander Odalis Perez arrived in Spring Training on Saturday and already was working out with the team. Before practice, he said that the Red Sox offered him a deal, but he said he signed with the Nationals because he had the best chance to be in the rotation.

"I understand Boston is a winning team, but at the same time, I wanted to get the opportunity to comeback to the big leagues," Perez said. "I want to come to Spring Training and show these people that I have a lot of things to give.

If Perez makes the Major League club, he will earn $850,000, plus incentives. He can earn extra money if he makes 20 starts.

Perez, 30, is coming off one of his worst seasons in the big leagues, going 8-11 with a 5.57 ERA in 26 starts for the Royals. He didn't pitch after Aug. 18 because of a sprained left knee.

"I would say the past is the past," Perez said. "I would say that this is the first time in my career I worked so hard. I feel like I'm in shape. I just want to get the ball every five days and show to this team that I have a lot to give."

Let's switch: Perez was supposed to wear No. 49 for the Nationals, but he will now wear No. 45, which was originally worn by Chris Schroder. Perez has worn No. 45 for most of his career.

On the mound: Right-hander Shawn Hill threw batting practice for the first time this spring and didn't have any problems. His fastball had some pop to it, but he acknowledged that he was mediocre with his breaking pitches.

"The fastball was pretty good today, but the offspeed stuff needed a lot of work," Hill said. "That's the whole point of going through these exercises. "Overall, once I get going, it has been feeling pretty good."

Visa issues Catcher Jesus Flores was expected to fly to Viera on Saturday and be in camp on Sunday.

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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