Nats sign Batista, Booker to Minor deals

Nats sign Batista, Booker to Minor deals

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals re-signed infielder Tony Batista and right-hander Chris Booker to Minor League contracts on Monday. Both players will start the season with Triple-A Columbus.

Booker, who played in parts of two seasons with the Major League club, is back with the organization because he was an excellent closer for Columbus last year. He appeared in 55 games and had a 2.95 ERA and 35 saves. He will have the same closer's role for Columbus this season. If he ever played for the big club, he most likely will be a middle man.

"He did a terrific job as a closer. We wanted Chris, and his character is unbelievable," assistant general manager Bob Boone said. "He is a no-nonsense type of guy who we know can close for you. From our standpoint, it was like we went after him late. We said, 'We know you can pitch. What the world thinks, we don't know. It's what we think.'"

Batista, a former power hitter with the Blue Jays and Orioles, was a pleasant surprise coming off the bench for the Nationals last year. He led the team in pinch-hits (14) and RBIs off the bench (12).

General manager Jim Bowden said he wanted Batista back for the 2008 season, but Batista became expendable when the team signed free agents Aaron Boone, Willie Harris and Rob Mackowiak and traded for Elijah Dukes.

But, according to Boone, manager Manny Acta wanted Batista back in the organization in some capacity. For now, Batista is looked upon as a player/coach.

"We don't really have a position for him [at the Minor League level], but at the end of the day, you know what kind of bat he is going to give you," Boone said. "Whether there's enough room at the end of the day, I don't know. We'll sort it out."

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