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Injury could keep Guillen on bench for start of season

WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Jose Guillen said Friday
his shoulder injury might force him to miss as much as the first
month of the regular season.

Guillen said he "might be there" when the Nationals open the
season April 3 against the New York Mets. He has been
rehabilitating his left shoulder since undergoing surgery for a
partially torn labrum on Nov. 21.

"We think it's going to be clean up, like a half-hour of
surgery, and it was, like, three hours," Guillen said following a
team-sponsored appearance at a local elementary school. "It's been
a horrible offseason."

Meanwhile, the Nationals have had preliminary talks with the
agents for Sammy Sosa. Nationals general manager Jim Bowden met
this week in Florida with Tom Reich, one of Sosa's representatives.

"We just continue to talk," Nationals assistant general
manager Tony Siegle said.

Also Friday, the Nationals hired former All-Star closer John
Wetteland as their bullpen coach, agreed to a one-year contract
with right-hander Francis Beltran and to minor league contracts
with first baseman Daryle Ward and left-handed reliever Valerio de
los Santos.

Guillen hurt his shoulder on a headfirst slide in June. He never
went on the disabled list, though the shoulder limited him at the
plate and in the field. He faded late in the year to finish with a
.283 average, 24 home runs and 76 RBI.

"They told me I hopefully would start swinging a bat in the
first week of spring training, but I'm not in a rush," Guillen
said. "That was a really serious injury. It was pretty much a
reconstructed shoulder. It's going to take me a while to heal and
get that shoulder strong. I'm going to take everything step by
step, and when it's ready, it's ready. If I have to miss, you know,
the first month, the first three weeks, I'm going to miss it."

Guillen said he has also been in contact with fellow Dominican
Alfonso Soriano, acquired by Washington in a trade with the Texas
Rangers in December. The Nationals want Soriano to play the
outfield, but he prefers to remain a second baseman. The Nationals
already have a three-time All-Star second baseman, Jose Vidro, and
Bowden wants both players in the lineup.

"I'm trying to talk to Soriano about playing the outfield,"
Guillen said. "That's something coming to spring training that Jim
is going to have to figure out -- what he's going to do with Soriano
and Vidro. They both are great players. They both are good friends
of mine. ... Hopefully, they're going to fix the problem that they
have."

Guillen indicated, however, that Soriano is still resistant to
change.

"He told me that he's not an outfielder," Guillen said.

Guillen said he'd even be willing to move to center field and
let Soriano play right field if that's what it took to make Soriano
happy.

"We have a happy team," Guillen said. "We had a great group
of guys last year. There was a great chemistry in that clubhouse,
and we don't want any distractions."

Another distraction for the Nationals is the saga of the ongoing
stadium talks between the city and Major League Baseball, which has
in turn delayed the sale of the team. The players have been pining
for a new owner since the franchise's announced relocation to
Washington more than a year ago.

"It's frustrating. It's hard not to get caught up in it,"
catcher Brian Schneider said. "But we really can't. We have to
worry about on-field stuff, because we're not the ones making the
decisions."

Wetteland, who pitched for the Montreal Expos, was a roving
pitching instructor for the Texas Rangers the past three seasons.
He was 48-45 with 330 saves and a 2.93 ERA for four major league
teams from 1989-00. His save total ranks ninth in major league
history.

He saved 105 games for the Expos from 1992-94, and ranks fourth
on the franchise's career saves list. His 43 saves in 1993 was the
team record until Chad Cordero finished with 47 last season for
Washington.

Wetteland was the MVP of the 1996 World Series with the New York
Yankees, saving all four of the team's victories against Atlanta.

"I couldn't be more pleased to add one of the best young
pitching minds in baseball to our coaching staff," Bowden said.
"John's high energy, passion, temperament and knowledge will
provide invaluable resources for all of our pitchers."

Ward, 30, hit .260 with 12 homers and 63 RBI for Pittsburgh
last season and would get a $700,000 contract if added to the major
league roster. De los Santos, 33, is 9-12 with a 4.54 ERA in nine
major league seasons and he went 1-2 with a 6.14 ERA for Florida in
2005. He would get a $600,000 contract.