Nationals, Astacio reach deal contingent on MRI

Updated: February 28, 2006, 9:30 AM ET
Associated Press

VIERA, Fla. -- One day after Brian Lawrence's shoulder surgery, the Washington Nationals addressed their dire starting pitching situation Monday by agreeing to terms with 35-year-old right-hander Pedro Astacio for a one-year contract.

However, the Nationals are taking no chances with Astacio. General manager Jim Bowden said the deal would not be completed -- and that he would not comment on it -- until Astacio undergoes an MRI on his right shoulder and right elbow Wednesday.

Astacio is 124-119 with a 4.61 ERA in 375 games, including 326 starts, over 14 seasons. He went 6-10 with a 4.19 ERA last season for Texas and San Diego.

Lawrence, acquired in an offseason trade with San Diego, complained of soreness after his first spring workout last week. An MRI revealed a labrum tear, and a torn rotator cuff was discovered during surgery Sunday morning. He is expected to miss most -- if not all -- of the season.

Clearly bothered by Lawrence's injury, manager Frank Robinson said Monday that all pitchers acquired by the team henceforth should be given more than a routine physical.

"I think you have to ... take an MRI on every pitcher that you acquire in a trade or free agency -- the elbows, knees and shoulders," Robinson said before the Astacio deal was announced. "That's the only way you're going to be able to look at the elbow and shoulder and knees, and get a pretty good idea of what's in there."

The Nationals have only two spots set in their starting rotation. Livan Hernandez and John Patterson are Nos. 1 and 2, while Tony Armas Jr., Ramon Ortiz, Jon Rauch, Ryan Drese and Billy Traber are among those battling for the final three spots.

While not commenting on the Astacio signing, Bowden released a statement denying reports that the Nationals were discussing a deal to acquire pitching from the Boston Red Sox.

"There is no truth that we are in trade discussions with Boston concerning Alfonso Soriano, Nick Johnson or Ryan Church," Bowden said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press