KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- In need of bullpen help, the Nationals signed reliever Julian Tavarez to a non-guaranteed Minor League contract on Friday.

Tavarez, 35, is having visa problems, but hopes to join the Nationals sometime next week. He recently played for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic and the Nationals were convinced that he is healthy enough to contend for a bullpen spot.

"We are not leaving a message to [our relievers]," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "He is a veteran that has been around. He throws the ball. His arm is in good shape. The fact is, we need somebody to step up in that bullpen. He is a guy who has done it in the past. He is a quick-term solution."

Last season, Tavarez played for the Red Sox, Brewers and Braves and had a 5.10 ERA in 52 games. His best season was in 2004, when he had a 2.38 ERA for the Cardinals.

Tavarez is a 16-year veteran who has a 85-75 record with 22 saves and a 4.45 ERA in 786 games.

Tavarez's 150 career holds rank fourth among active players behind only Arthur Rhodes (193), Alan Embree (187) and Bob Howry (165). Tavarez's 678 relief appearances rank ninth among active pitchers.