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12/01/09 9:57 PM EST

Nats elect not to offer arbitration

Of free agents, Villone could be only one to return in '10

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals did not offer arbitration to any of their free agents, which include catcher Josh Bard, right-hander Livan Hernandez, outfielder Austin Kearns, left-hander Ron Villone and first baseman Dmitri Young.

None of the players were Type A or B free agents -- rankings are based on a player's performance during the previous two seasons.

In the last two seasons, Young played in only 50 games because of illness and injury. His best season with the Nationals was in 2007 when hit .320 with 13 home runs and 74 RBIs, earning National League Comeback Player of the Year honors.

Villone is arguably the only free agent who has a chance of coming back to the organization. Manager Jim Riggleman called the reliever a leader by example, because he wants to pitch on a regular basis and watches the game from the dugout after completing his work on the mound. Villone pitched in 63 games and had a 4.25 ERA.

"Ronnie sets a great example," Riggleman said in August. "He takes the ball more than anybody. He is 39 years old, but he is willing to pitch every day, which I think says a lot. It indicates to some other pitchers that this guy has been around a long time."

Kearns was a great teammate and worked hard, but he was a disappointment when it came to his offense. He came to Washington with a lot of hype after former general manager Jim Bowden acquired him from the Reds in July 2006.

Bowden predicted that Kearns would hit 40 home runs and drive in over 100 runs in a season, but it didn't happen. Kearns' best season in Washington was in 2007, when he hit .266 with 16 home runs and 74 RBIs. A lot of baseball experts felt he was too vulnerable to inside pitches.

Injuries took a toll on Kearns during the next two seasons. He played only 86 games in 2008 because of elbow and foot problems.

This season was the toughest of Kearns' career, hitting .195 with three home runs and 17 RBIs.

Hernandez joined the Nationals as a free agent Aug. 26 after the Mets released him six days earlier. His job was to give the club innings and be a role model to the young pitching staff. Hernandez pitched 48 2/3 innings and went 2-4 with a 5.36 ERA.

When catcher Jesus Flores missed most of the season with a right shoulder injury, Bard found himself in a platoon situation with Wil Nieves. Bard played in 90 games and hit .230 with two home runs and 31 RBIs.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.