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Vidro: 'I want to play for Manny Acta'

Vidro: 'I want to play for Manny Acta'

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Second baseman Jose Vidro said this week that he wants to stay with the Nationals and play for Manny Acta, the team's new manager. The two were close when they were with the Expos. Vidro was an All-Star second baseman and Acta was the third-base coach.

The last time they talked was a couple of weeks ago, when Vidro congratulated Acta about his new job. The two, however, did not talk about Vidro's role on the team and that has been the talk of the offseason.

"I was in the Dominican Republic the last two weeks and I had a chance to talk to Manny on the phone, and he was very excited about the job," Vidro said from his home in Puerto Rico. "It sounds like he has a lot of plans for the ballclub. When you have a manager like Manny, you can expect a lot of things."

Vidro may not get a chance to play for his good friend. The Nationals would like to trade Vidro, 32, for younger players to replenish the farm system, but the team may have a tough time moving him because he has two years and $16 million left on his contract. According to a baseball source, the Nationals are hoping other teams noticed Vidro playing eight games at first base at the end of the season. Washington is hoping his versatility could attract potential suitors.

"I'm really not thinking about [being traded]," Vidro said. "It's not the first time that I've heard [about being traded], and it won't be the last. I'm going to focus on what I'm doing right now. It doesn't bother me at all. All I can say is that I want to play for Manny Acta. Wherever I go, I will probably play every day."

If Vidro stays with the Nationals, he could be the odd man out in a crowded middle infield that includes shortstops Cristian Guzman and Felipe Lopez. There is a possibility that Lopez could be switched to second base and Guzman stays at shortstop.

Vidro could find himself at first base if Nick Johnson, who broke his right leg last September, is not 100 percent by Opening Day.

Another possibility is that Vidro and Lopez could be a double-play combination again, if Guzman has not fully recovered from right shoulder surgery. Guzman missed all of 2006 because of the injury.

Vidro said he will do anything for Acta except be on the bench. He said he is working hard this offseason to be a second baseman.

"You know me, I will never say, 'No.' If they have a situation where Nick Johnson will not be available and I'm the guy to fill in for him, I will do whatever. I will help them. That's not even an issue. All they have to do is say where I have to play," Vidro said. "I definitely want to play second base and that's where I think I'm going to play."

Last season, Vidro had an off season by his standards. Although he hit .289 in 126 games, Vidro had a tough time driving in runs and became a singles hitter. Vidro has a reputation of being a doubles machine who drives in a lot of runs.

After missing more than a month because of a left hamstring injury, Vidro returned to the club on Aug. 18, and his range at second deteriorated. He had a tough time going to his left and right. It got to a point where then-manager Frank Robinson benched Vidro a few games to give Bernie Castro a shot. Vidro ended the season as a first baseman.

An honest man who is not afraid to be critical of himself and the team, Vidro said he was not in game shape when he returned to action.

"It's very tough to come back after you miss a lot of time," Vidro said. "When I was on the DL [disabled list] last season, I was hoping to miss just the 15 days. But I missed over a month and it was hard. You try to catch up. Sometimes you try to do too much. The body gets tired quickly. There were times I was trying to rush to be at the top level. I blame myself because I went on the DL, and I missed a lot of time."

Vidro is now healthy and hopes to avoid the DL for the first time since the 2003 season. In 2004 and '05, Vidro missed time because of right knee problems.

"If I avoid the DL, it's going to be OK for me because I'm going to be at the same level the whole year," Vidro said. "I'm not concerned about my knees. All I have to do is stay healthy for a full year."

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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