No decision on Soriano's position

No decision on Soriano's position

VIERA, Fla. -- The Washington Nationals introduced Alfonso Soriano to the media for the first time late Thursday morning, and neither he, manager Frank Robinson nor general manager Jim Bowden indicated whether Soriano will switch from second base to left field.

Soriano gave hints that he would keep an open mind to the position switch, but two baseball sources familiar with Soriano's thinking said that the right-handed-hitting slugger has no intentions of playing the outfield.

Washington's first full-squad workouts are on Friday morning and Soriano will be practicing at second base before he represents the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Soriano will go to the outfield after working out at second base, but that does not mean that he will be working on his outfield skills.

"It's not what position he is going to be playing, because we don't play games until March," Robinson said. "He is going to be going out here to work [at second base] for the World Baseball Classic."

Soriano will report to the Dominican team in Orlando on March 3, but he still could play in two exhibition games for the Nationals before then. Washington plays the Kia Tigers and the Pirates on March 1 and 2, respectively.

Once Soriano comes back, the team will then determine its next course of action.

During the press conference, Soriano, wearing a DC cap and a dark blue practice jersey, had a big smile on his face but declined to talk about playing the outfield for the Nationals. He talked often about how he wanted to help the Nationals win games.

"I'm so happy to be here with my new team. ... I come here for one reason and that is to win. That's the more important thing right now," Soriano said. "I want to make this team better. I think me and Robinson have the same mind -- we try to win. That's the most important thing for me."

Soriano did talk about playing the outfield for the Yankees in 2001. He played a few exhibition games in left field before making the switch to second base. Soriano said playing those few games is not a barometer as to whether he could play the position.

"I think I played three games -- it's not too many games -- and then I moved to second base," Soriano said. "So I don't have too much time to say, 'Well, I'd like to play outfield now.' It's only three or four games. I'm not comfortable, because it's only three or four games."

Playing second base is important for Soriano, 30. He made that clear in a meeting with the Nationals' think tank and agent Diego Bentz on Thursday morning. The session lasted more than two hours outside Space Coast Stadium.

One problem, though: The job belongs to Jose Vidro, and that was reiterated to Soriano on Thursday afternoon.

According to a source familiar with the meeting, the think tank -- which included Bowden, Robinson, and assistant general managers Bob Boone and Tony Siegle -- spent that time trying to convince Soriano to make the switch. They mentioned that great players like Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez made position switches for the good of their teams. Bowden did most of the talking. After the team made its pitch, Soriano remained adamant that he was not going to play the outfield.

"We had great discussions," Bowden said during the press conference. "I think it's important to understand where each side is coming from. I think we had an opportunity to look at each other eye-to-eye and go through the issues of the club and the issues of where Alfonso is coming from. We have a lot of respect for Alfonso as a player and as a person. And he understands our situation and where we're coming from."

Vidro sympathizes with Soriano and said that he would have reacted the same way if he was traded and then asked to play another position.

"I understand everything Soriano is saying," Vidro said. "I would probably try to work it out. That's a team decision. I hope that both of us can be in the lineup at the same time. That would be great, because adding Soriano to the team is very good. I'm waiting for the team to make the right decision. Some way, somehow, we have to get this working. I'm happy that both of us are here."

The situation will not be resolved until Soriano returns from the World Baseball Classic, and the Nationals requested during the press conference that no more questions be asked about the position switch until there are new developments.

"If something happens, we'll discuss it," Bowden said. "But for us to have to answer the same questions every day is not productive."

It remains to be seen if Washington will trade Soriano if he doesn't soften his stance.

The Nationals already have feelers out for Reds outfielder Wily Mo Pena, and a Nationals scout is expected to look at him sometime this week.

The Nationals have been after Pena since last season. He is a player who Bowden acquired from the Yankees when he was the general manager of the Reds. Last year, Pena hit .254 with 19 home runs and 54 RBIs for Cincinnati. Bowden has always believed that Pena has the potential of being a similar player to Sammy Sosa.

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