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Notes: Flores arrives in camp

Notes: Flores arrives in camp

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals catcher Jesus Flores arrived in camp on Sunday morning, eight days after pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training.

According to Flores, he was a late arrival because the Nationals didn't send him the necessary paperwork to get his visa in a timely fashion.

"The team sent me a form which I had to show to the Venezuelan embassy in order to the get the visa, but [the Nationals] sent it too late. So that's why I was late to the camp," Flores said. "I wanted to be here before camp started, but it didn't happen. So I had to wait."

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But, through a team spokesperson, the Nationals gave their side to the story.

"As soon as the club received approval for Jesus Flores' visa petition by the [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services], we forwarded it to the player without delay," said senior director of baseball media relations John Dever. "The immigration process for visa approvals took longer than normal. We applied for all visa petitions the same time as every other year -- in early December."

Flores, 23, was the Nationals' Rule 5 Draft pick in December 2006 and had a solid season as a backup catcher last year, hitting .244 with four home runs and 25 RBIs. By September, Flores was platooning with Brian Schneider.

It was assumed that Flores would be the everyday catcher once Schneider was traded to the Mets, but Washington signed Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada, and general manager Jim Bowden announced that Flores would most likely spend the 2008 season with Double-A Harrisburg. Bowden and manager Manny Acta said they don't want Flores to spend another year on the bench. They would like him to hone his skills on an everyday basis in the Minor Leagues.

Flores said he is not thinking about going back to the Minor Leagues. He sees himself as a Major Leaguer.

"I'm just getting here, trying to do my job and trying to show them that I can stay in the big leagues," Flores said. "I know Estrada and Lo Duca are starting catchers, but everybody is here for one job, and that's what I want."

He looks real good: Acta said it was the first time in 10 years that he has seen left-hander Odalis Perez in great shape, and Perez agrees with the skipper. Perez said that he did a lot of running, swimming and weight lifting over the offseason. He ended up losing 22 pounds.

"This is the first time that I see myself in this physical condition," Perez said. "During the winter, I worked my tail off. I come to this team in the best shape in my life. I feel great mentally and physically. I just need the opportunity to be out there every five days, and I know what I can do."

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Thinking about Felipe: Hitting coach Lenny Harris said that his biggest project is getting Felipe Lopez back to his All-Star status. Harris wants Lopez to concentrate on base hits and not get upset when he doesn't get a hit. Harris said Lopez gets frustrated whenever he doesn't do his job.

Last season, Lopez had one of his worst seasons as a regular, hitting .245 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs.

"He has to be one of the best athletes in this locker room," Harris said. "It's just a mind thing. Hopefully, we can relate and get him to be the player that he was in Cincinnati. He's the type of player that can take over a game by himself. I don't want him to get frustrated. That what hurts him a lot -- when he gets frustrated."

Talk around Florida: There was a rumor circulating around Florida on Saturday that the Nationals had interest in free-agent outfielder Corey Patterson, but a baseball source said it wasn't true. Washington had interest in Patterson before the Winter Meetings, but the team had lost interest in Patterson after they traded for Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes.

On the mound: Right-hander John Patterson threw live batting practice for the first time this spring on Sunday, and he didn't have any pain. He said he felt relaxed on the mound and was able to throw all of his pitches.

Let the games begin: Acta decided not to have an intrasquad game, because he didn't want some of the pitchers to miss out on batting practice. The Nationals play their first Grapefruit League game against the Marlins at 7:05 ET on Wednesday night in Jupiter, Fla.

Behind the plate: Acta said that Estrada will not start the exhibition season on time because his right elbow is not 100 percent. However, according to Acta, Estrada recently went all out on a throw without realizing it.

Estrada had minor right elbow surgery during the offseason.

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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