Nationals, Astacio reach deal contingent on MRI

VIERA, Fla. -- One day after Brian Lawrence's shoulder
surgery, the Washington Nationals addressed their dire starting
pitching situation Monday by agreeing to terms with 35-year-old
right-hander Pedro Astacio for a one-year contract.

However, the Nationals are taking no chances with Astacio.
General manager Jim Bowden said the deal would not be completed --
and that he would not comment on it -- until Astacio undergoes an
MRI on his right shoulder and right elbow Wednesday.

Astacio is 124-119 with a 4.61 ERA in 375 games, including 326
starts, over 14 seasons. He went 6-10 with a 4.19 ERA last season
for Texas and San Diego.

Lawrence, acquired in an offseason trade with San Diego,
complained of soreness after his first spring workout last week. An
MRI revealed a labrum tear, and a torn rotator cuff was discovered
during surgery Sunday morning. He is expected to miss most -- if not
all -- of the season.

Clearly bothered by Lawrence's injury, manager Frank Robinson
said Monday that all pitchers acquired by the team henceforth
should be given more than a routine physical.

"I think you have to ... take an MRI on every pitcher that you
acquire in a trade or free agency -- the elbows, knees and
shoulders," Robinson said before the Astacio deal was announced.
"That's the only way you're going to be able to look at the elbow
and shoulder and knees, and get a pretty good idea of what's in

The Nationals have only two spots set in their starting
rotation. Livan Hernandez and John Patterson are Nos. 1 and 2,
while Tony Armas Jr., Ramon Ortiz, Jon Rauch, Ryan Drese and Billy Traber are among those battling for the final three spots.

While not commenting on the Astacio signing, Bowden released a
statement denying reports that the Nationals were discussing a deal
to acquire pitching from the Boston Red Sox.

"There is no truth that we are in trade discussions with Boston
concerning Alfonso Soriano, Nick Johnson or Ryan Church," Bowden