Monday, March 20, 2006
Updated: March 21, 5:16 PM ET
Team prepared to put Soriano on disqualified list
VIERA, Fla. -- Alfonso Soriano refused to play the outfield for the Washington Nationals in what was supposed to be his spring training debut Monday night, and general manager Jim Bowden said his biggest offseason acquisition will go on the disqualified list if he doesn't agree to switch positions this week.
"The player refused to take the field, which we believe is a violation of his contract," Bowden said.
Soriano, a four-time All-Star second baseman, was listed as batting leadoff and playing left field on a lineup sheet posted in the Nationals' clubhouse before Monday night's 11-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But when the Nationals took the field in the top of the first, Soriano wasn't out there. With play just about ready to start, left field was empty.
Confused players and fans looked toward Washington's dugout. The only person to emerge, however, was manager Frank Robinson.
He approached plate umpire Mike Estabrook and made a defensive switch, moving Ryan Church from center field to left and putting Brandon Watson in center to replace Soriano at the top of the lineup.
|How to handle Soriano
How would former general manager Steve Phillips handle the Alfonso Soriano situation if he was the Nationals' GM?
To read his expert analysis, click here .
"I was sitting out there ready to warm up, but nobody was out there, and the next thing I see Watty running out there, so I kind of figured what happened," Church said.
The Nationals already have an All-Star second baseman in Jose Vidro, so they told Soriano they want him to move to the outfield, and he indicated he doesn't want to do that. But Monday provided his most concrete -- and visible -- objection.
"I just hope they can fix the situation," Washington outfielder Jose Guillen said. "That's up to the people upstairs and Soriano. I think everybody's a grown-up man here. I just hope for the best for the team and those guys, and that they can fix the situation. But that's pretty much not my business."
When Soriano first reported to camp last month, the question of whether he would accept the switch was left open until his return from the World Baseball Classic.
Soriano played for the Dominican Republic, which was eliminated in the tournament semifinals Saturday. He joined the Nationals on Monday and worked out with teammates in the afternoon, but he wouldn't speak to reporters.
He wasn't in the clubhouse after Monday night's game.
"It's a difficult situation for the organization and for him personally," said pitcher Mike Stanton, Soriano's teammate on the New York Yankees from 1999-02. "I don't really think anything good can come out of this."
The Nationals acquired Soriano from Texas in a December trade that sent outfielders Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge and pitcher Armando Galarraga to the Rangers. After the deal, Washington made it clear that Vidro would keep his spot at second; Soriano made it clear that he wasn't happy.
Soriano lost his arbitration case this winter and is due to be paid $10 million this season, still a record for the highest salary awarded in arbitration.
The Nationals are off Tuesday, then travel to play the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter on Wednesday. If Soriano refuses to play in that game and again at home against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, the Nationals will take action.
"We told him if we get to Thursday, and he refuses to play left field, we told him at that point we will request that the commissioner's office place him on the disqualified list, at that time -- no pay, no service time," Bowden said.
"If he refuses to play and goes home, and the commissioner's office accepts our request to place him on the disqualified list, then at that point, if he were to sit out this year, he would not be a free agent, he would stay our property because his service time would stay the same."
If Soriano does show up for the game Wednesday, Robinson said he
would be willing to forgive him.
"It will be water under the bridge as far as I'm concerned," the manager said.
Steve Phillips discusses the staredown and explains what will happen if Washington puts Soriano on the disqualified list.
• Phillips' take
Tim Kurkjian can't believe Soriano didn't take the field, and says that it will hurt him in the future. He also says it was a bad trade for the Nationals to make.
• Kurkjian's take
Buster Olney thinks the Nationals should have talked to Soriano before the trade but also hopes somebody's advising the player to compromise.
• Olney: Nats botched deal
Peter Gammons says Soriano is a bad fielding second baseman, and if the Nats want him in the outfield, he doesn't have much of a choice.
• Gammons' take
Robinson sat down privately with Soriano for 20 minutes before the game Monday to explain the team's position.
"If he's going to play here, he's going to have to be out in left field," Robinson said. "He said he's ready to play, he needs to play, he's ready for the season, and I penciled him in the lineup in left field."
Robinson said the meeting with Soriano was civil, but the player's position was clear.
"He's very sensitive, and he has a mind-set," Robinson said. "He lets you know how he feels."
Trading Soriano, already a possibility, becomes more likely now -- with less than two weeks remaining before opening day.
"He's going to play left field. He needs to be out there now the next couple of weeks to play, and if he's not going to play for us, we need to know so we can go forward," Bowden said. "We obviously will field offers, but we're not going to give the player away. If we can make a deal that makes sense, we will."
[Alfonso] Soriano's not going to retire, but his refusal to move to left field from his normal second base could get him a permanent spot on the bench. As a result, if you're drafting a team today, you must factor that in, meaning Soriano is likely to slip a bit.
To read more of Eric Karabell's blog, click here .
RHP Brad Penny gave up two runs and four hits in five innings for the Dodgers and C Russell Martin hit a three-run homer. ... Guillen started in right field and went 0-for-2, his spring debut following offseason surgery on his left shoulder and a left wrist injury this month. ... RHP Tony Armas Jr. also made his Grapefruit League debut for Washington after returning from the WBC. Armas allowed one hit in three scoreless innings.