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Padres deal starter Lawrence to Nats for Castilla

WASHINGTON -- Third baseman Vinny Castilla was traded by the
Washington Nationals to the San Diego Padres for right-hander
Brian Lawrence and cash Thursday night.

The move paves the way for Ryan Zimmerman, the No. 4 overall
pick in June's amateur draft, to start at third for the Nationals
next season.

General manager Jim Bowden thanked Castilla "for his many
contributions during our inaugural season," then added: "This
trade, however, clears a path for Ryan Zimmerman, who we believe
will be a fixture at the hot corner in Washington for years to
come."

The Padres have long been looking for help at third. Sean
Burroughs struggled so badly he was sent to the minors in July when
San Diego acquired Joe Randa in a trade with Cincinnati. Randa
filed for free agency after the season.

"In the 10 years I've been a general manager, I was tired of
Vinny hitting home runs against us, either in Colorado or
Washington," San Diego GM Kevin Towers said. "He's always been a
Padres nemesis, not only from the offensive standpoint, but from a
defensive standpoint. This guy, I think, is one of the best
defensive third basemen in the game."

The 38-year-old Castilla, hampered by knee tendinitis last
season, hit .253 with 12 home runs and 66 RBI in his first season
with the former Expos. He led the NL in RBI with Colorado in 2004,
and signed a $6.2 million, two-year deal as a free agent with
Washington last offseason.

But with Zimmerman's emergence -- he hit .397 with 10 doubles in
58 at-bats as a September call-up -- Castilla's status in Washington
wasn't certain. Late in the season, Castilla said he didn't want to
stay in Washington if he'd be a backup.

"If I'm not starting, no," he said in September. "I signed
for two years to start."

Lawrence gives the Nationals a durable starter as they try to
rebuild a rotation that fell apart late last season. He went 7-15
with a 4.83 ERA in 33 starts for San Diego in 2005. He struck out
109 batters and walked 57 in his 195 2/3 innings.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 49-61 with a 4.10 ERA in his
five-year major-league career. He won at least 10 games in every
season from 2002-04 -- with a high of 15 in 2004 -- and more than 200
innings.

"We are very pleased to add a dependable starter such as Brian
Lawrence to our rotation," Bowden said. "No only does he have a
reputation of going deep into games, but he has averaged 34 starts
the last four seasons."

Lawrence is a groundball pitcher who could benefit from a
Nationals defense that set a franchise record for fewest errors in
a season.

A two-time All-Star with the Rockies, Castilla is a .278 career
hitter in 15 major league seasons with 315 homers and 1,078 RBI.
He often put up prodigious power numbers at hitter-friendly Coors
Field, but his production dropped off at spacious RFK Stadium last
season -- and now he goes to another big home park in San Diego.

That doesn't concern Towers.

"As we found out the last couple of years, right-handed power
plays in Petco," he said.

Towers said he would keep trying to trade Burroughs, but if he
is unable to work out a deal, the GM thinks Burroughs would make an
adequate backup.

Zimmerman, who went to the University of Virginia, signed with
the Nationals the day after the draft and had a short stay at
Class-A before heading to Double-A. He made his major league debut
as a pinch-hitter on Sept. 1, then got his first hit the next day.

On Sept. 20, he became the youngest player to bat cleanup for
the Expos-Nationals franchise.