Pena placed on waivers; Young back
Nationals show confidence in first baseman's ability, health
VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals placed outfielder Wily Mo Pena on waivers and selected the contract of first baseman Dmitri Young on Saturday morning.
Pena was seen saying goodbye to his former teammates before leaving Space Coast Stadium, but he declined to talk to the media.
Opposing teams have three days to claim him and pick up his $2 million salary. If not, the Nationals could outright him to Triple-A Syracuse or Pena could ask for his release and become a free agent. Washington would prefer if Pena went to Syracuse to get more at-bats. Pena had problems with a strained right shoulder and was limited to being a designated hitter this spring.
"I think he needs to go down there to get his everyday at-bats and reps in the outfield," assistant general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He needs to prove, not only to the Nationals but 29 other clubs, that he is a viable Major League force."
The Nationals acquired Pena from the Red Sox on Aug. 18, 2007, and he hit .293 with eight home runs and 22 RBIs in 37 games. Last year was a nightmare for Pena, as he missed the second half of the season because of left shoulder surgery.
As for Young, he had a handshake agreement with former general manager Jim Bowden that he would be back on the 40-man roster by Spring Training.
Rizzo said that Young earned the spot, because he came to camp in shape and has the ability to hit. Young was taken off the 40-man roster during the offseason, because the team needed to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft.
"It was a baseball decision that we are putting him back on the 40-man roster," Rizzo said. "We feel he has something to contribute to us on a Major League level. Let's not forget what he can do. He is a guy, I believe, [who] can fall out of bed and give you good at-bats from both sides of the plate."
During the eighth inning of Saturday's game between the Nationals and Astros, Young expressed how pleased he was that he was put on the 40-man roster. It marked the first time since March 1 that Young addressed the media. He laid low for the most part, he said, because he didn't want any negative publicity in the clubhouse.
"We have a lot of great players over here," Young said. "I think it's going to be good over here this year. We don't want anything negative to happen. I've said things in the past that came out the wrong way. I kind of meant [things] to come out the wrong way. Sometimes you have to be quiet and let everything unfold on its own."
It's clear Young is arguably in the best shape of his Nationals career. He lost a significant amount of weight and he has his diabetes is under control.
"There was a lot of hard work behind the scenes and I took advantage of it," Young said. "Watching your diet and a lot of cardio -- that's one thing that I would suggest to any diabetic. A lot of cardio to get the heart rate up. That really helped me out."
Rizzo said Young most likely will not start the regular season on time. He has not played in an exhibition game since early March because of back problems. But Young sounded like someone who feels like he ready for the regular season. He has been playing in Minor League games for the past week.
"I'm good to go -- get my at-bats and play on the field down there," Young said. "I feel good. I know they want to see a little bit more. I could have played in a big league game, actually. I just want to be ready for April 6. I set my goals high. If I can get this far, I can go the extra mile."
The Nationals are going to carry an extra position player when they head to the regular season. They are carrying four starters, and don't need fifth one until April 19. Manager Manny Acta said the front office will have a meeting soon as far as where Young fits in on the Major League side.
"My goal right now is to get up there and be used when needed," Young said. "I've been in that situation before and found myself getting 500 at-bats at the end of the year. This is something I'm very familiar with."
In other news, the Nationals reassigned infielder Jose Castillo, outfielder Corey Patterson and catcher Javier Valentin to Minor League camp. Valentin elected to become a free agent.
Washington also placed left-hander Matt Chico on the 60-day disabled list. He is still recovering from elbow reconstruction surgery. The team hopes he can pitch by July.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.