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Saturday morning leftovers [update]

To expand upon the Felipe Lopez/Ronnie Belliard second base situation, which was the topic of today's notebook in the .35/.50 edition (and a very spirited discussion here at NJ throughout yesterday) -- I spoke to a handful of scouts and executives at yesterday's game and came away with these impressions:

1. The Nationals are absolutely trying to deal Lopez.
2. Any team that needs a second baseman would rather have Belliard -- better player (at least right now), better contract.
3. As one of the scouts put it, "So would the Nationals."

Given all that, I'm becoming less convinced that the situation will end with a trade. And if a trade doesn't occur, there are only two other options: Release Lopez, or stick him on the bench, whether he likes it or not.

Also: Right-hander Chris Schroder, one of a handful of candidates for the one remaining bullpen spot that appears to be open, had a rough outing yesterday in Port St. Lucie. Here was Manny Acta's assessment this morning: "Rough day. Rough lineup. You have to pitch ahead and keep the ball down. He just had a rough day out there."

On the other hand, lefty Ray King, who is also fighting for that spot, pitched well again yesterday. Acta on King: "He's done a good job. He's thrown strikes and gotten guys out. What else can you ask?"

It is easy to read into those comments that King has made this team -- and indeed, he is the only lefty in the mix, although the Nats insist they are prepared to go all-right-handed if need be -- but it certainly is not a done deal.

Other nuggets from this morning:

*Shawn Hill threw a bullpen yesterday, reported some slight soreness in his elbow afterwards, but is still on track to throw two innings in a minor league game on Monday, in hopes of getting himself ready to pitch for the Nationals on April 13

*Elijah Dukes will not play today, after testing his sore hamstring yesterday with varying degrees of success, but will play nine innings Sunday if he doesn't have a setback.

*Paul Lo Duca (knee) will get a few at-bats in the minor league game today, then perhaps pinch-hit in the big league game against the Atlanta Braves, and is expected to catch back-to-back games Sunday and Monday.

*As for the Vanderbilt game last night, I don't want to talk about it, thanks.

QUICK UPDATE:

*First baseman Matt Whitney, the Rule 5 draftee, was returned to the Cleveland Indians today -- a not-unexpected move, since the Nationals simply don't have room for him.

*And lefty Mike O'Connor was reassigned to the minor league camp -- also not a big surprise. Officially, the final rotation spot is now down to John Lannan, who pitches today against the Braves, and Matt Chico -- however, as we wrote today in the .35/.50 edition, the Nationals have all but said the job belongs to Chico, and it seems likely an announcement to that effect might be made after Lannan pitches today.

By Dave Sheinin  |  March 22, 2008; 8:29 AM ET
 
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Next: King of the Bullpen... and lineups

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