Who's on second? Not Soriano

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Nationals' controversy overshadowed the Cardinals' 9-3 victory.

JUPITER, Fla. -- Alfonso Soriano's only chance in left field Wednesday was a reminder of the good old days, before the Washington Nationals finally persuaded him to change positions.

Soriano jogged in a few steps to catch a routine fly ball by Albert Pujols, then threw to second base to double off David Eckstein.

"I never think I'm going to make a double play in the outfield," Soriano said. "But I did it."

Soriano agreed to make the move from second base only two days after refusing to take his new spot in the outfield. The Nationals had a day off Tuesday.

"It's a relief for everybody, it really is," manager Frank Robinson said before the game. "We get the distractions away from here and we can focus on baseball now and getting this ballclub tuned up and ready to go for opening day."

Now, all Soriano needs is his own glove. He borrowed prospect George Lombard's outfield model Wednesday during a 9-3 loss to St. Louis.

The Nationals got Soriano in a December trade with Texas for outfielders Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge and minor league pitcher Armando Galarraga, and general manager Jim Bowden and Robinson have been trying to persuade Soriano to switch positions since. Washington already has an established second baseman, three-time All-Star Jose Vidro.

Soriano was 1-for-3, and he doubled and scored the Nationals' first run in the fourth. In the bottom half, he made the play to double off Eckstein, who wandered far from the bag believing the ball would drop for a hit.

Soriano had been scheduled to make his first spring training appearance Monday night against the Dodgers. But after being listed on the lineup card in left field, he refused to play.

Bowden threatened to put Soriano on the disqualified list, which would prevent him from playing, accruing service time and receiving his $10 million salary.

Soriano had the lone hit off Jason Marquis, who allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings, the longest outing by a Cardinals starter this spring. Pujols hit a two-run double in his first game back after playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

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