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Soriano loses arbitration case

Soriano loses arbitration case

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals won their arbitration case with infielder Alfonso Soriano on Friday. Soriano will make $10 million in 2006 instead of the $12 million that he was seeking.

Despite losing, Soriano was awarded the highest salary in an arbitration case and will get a substantial raise. Last season, he made $7.5 million with the Rangers.

The case was heard in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, with attorneys Mel Southard and Greg Torborg, the son of former Major League manager Jeff Torborg, representing the Nationals. Soriano also was at the hearing.

Southard has represented teams led by Nationals general manager Jim Bowden in the past. Together, they are 10-2 in arbitration cases.

"We are pleased to win the case," Bowden said. "Mel Southard and Greg Torborg and their staff did a tremendous job during the process. It's a fair and equitable contract for both Alfonso Soriano and the club."

Bowden declined to talk about what was said during hearing, but according to a baseball source, the Nationals acknowledged that Soriano is one of the better players in the Major Leagues, but they also mentioned Soriano's defensive flaws, low on-base percentage and inconsistencies with the bat.

Soriano's representative brought up that fact that his client drives in runs, hits home runs and steals bases.

Now the Nationals must convince Soriano to play left field, a position he does not want to play. He wants to remain at second base, but the position belongs to Jose Vidro.

After the arbitration case, Soriano and the Nationals talked about the position switch, but they didn't come to an agreement.

"He clearly knows that Jose Vidro is our second baseman and that we'd like him to change positions for the club," said Bowden.

In fact, Soriano and Bowden even joked about the position switch on Thursday. The elevator was crowded and Soriano came near the elevator and asked, ''Is there room for one more?" Bowden replied, "Of course, there's room for an outfielder."

Soriano entered the elevator and both parties laughed, with Soriano saying, "I don't know about all that now."

"We had a good laugh over it," Bowden said. "He's a very warm, sensitive, good person."

Bowden and manager Frank Robinson are planning to talk to Soriano again once Spring Training starts.

Soriano is a career .280 hitter with 162 homers and 465 RBIs in his five-plus years in the Majors. He drove in a career-high 104 runs last year for Texas, while hitting .268 and knocking 36 long balls.

The Nationals acquired Soriano from the Rangers on Dec. 13 for outfielders Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge and Minor League pitcher Armando Galarraga.

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

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