Nats bolster bench with LeCroy

Nats bolster bench with LeCroy

WASHINGTON --- In need of a backup catcher and right-handed help off the bench, the Nationals signed catcher/first baseman Matt LeCroy to a one-year, $850,000 contract on Wednesday.

LeCroy could provide some of the power that Washington lacked last season. LeCroy has spent the last six seasons with the Twins, with his best season coming in 2003, when he hit .287 with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs. LeCroy had similar numbers in 2005, hitting .260 with 17 home runs and 50 RBIs.

LeCroy most likely will battle Robert Fick to back up Brian Schneider at catcher.

"With the addition of Matt LeCroy, I am pleased to add a professional right-handed hitter to our bench who can also serve as a backup at both catcher and first base," Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said.

LeCroy, 30, has spent most of his career as a designated hitter. In fact, he has played only 27 games behind the plate the last two years, and only one as a catcher in 2005. Defensively, LeCroy is considered a below-average catcher and a decent first baseman. The Nationals feel, however, that assistant general manager Bob Boone, a former catcher, can make LeCroy better behind the plate. LeCroy said that he needs to improve his throwing and his footwork behind the plate.

"It means a lot to have Bob Boone helping me out," LeCroy said. "The past two years, I haven't caught that much with Joe Mauer being in Minnesota. ... I used to catch bullpens all the time. But I have been working out every day and I'm just ready to go. I'm sure Bob Boone will have a lot of tips to get my throwing down."

In other news, Alfonso Soriano's arbitration hearing is scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. ET in Tampa, Fla. The parties are $2 million apart. The Nationals are offering $10 million, while Soriano is looking for a $12 million contract for 2006. Last season with the Rangers, Soriano made $7.5 million and hit .268 with 36 home runs and 104 RBIs.

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