If Soriano doesn't play, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said the club would request Major League Baseball place Soriano on the disqualified list for not rendering his services to the club. It means that Soriano would not earn his $10 million salary and lose service time. Soriano is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2006 season, but Bowden said Soriano would lose his eligibility to look for employment elsewhere after the season.
The standoff between Soriano and the club reached this stage when Soriano refused to play left field on Monday night against the Dodgers. Since being acquired in a December trade with Texas, Soriano has repeatedly said he wants to remain a second baseman and not be shifted to the outfield, as the Nationals had planned.
Soriano now says he thought he was not supposed to start the game, because when he looked at the lineup in the clubhouse, he was not part of the starting nine. He said he didn't know he was supposed to play against the Dodgers until Nick Johnson gave him a call during the game.
According to two baseball sources, bench coach Eddie Rodriguez wrote two lineups on Monday. The one without Soriano's name in the lineup was on the clubhouse bulletin board for most of the afternoon.
"With me, I'm thinking I'm out of the lineup," Soriano said. "Before they made the lineup, I told them if I'm not playing second base, I do not want to be in the lineup. Nick Johnson called me at that time and he told me that they had me in the lineup, but [nobody showed up]. Now I look like the bad guy."
Soriano was acquired from the Rangers on Dec. 7 for outfielders Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge and right-hander Armando Galarraga. The trade didn't become official until Dec. 13, because Wilkerson was on a trip to the Bahamas.
Texas denied Washington permission to talk to Soriano about a switch from second base to left field until the players took their physicals and the trade was official.
"[The Nationals] didn't tell me about the switch until after the trade," Soriano said. "[The Rangers] didn't want them to talk, because they know what the problem is. The Nationals had to know how unhappy I would be."
Soriano said that he regrets that he didn't talk the media before the Monday's game. Several times, the Washington press tried to get a comment from the four-time All-Star, but he declined.
"I apologize for not talking to you guys. That's not me," he said.
Washington expects the Major League Baseball Players Association to file a grievance on Soriano's behalf and take the case to arbitration should the impasse not be resolved.
"I want this thing to work out," said catcher Brian Schneider. "We need Alfonso in that lineup bad. It would be a huge help. I don't think it has been a huge distraction. I know people were anxious to see what happens when he came back [from the World Baseball Classic]. But I think it could be distracting if it goes on any longer."