Travis Lee released by Nats

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Travis Lee asked for and was granted his
unconditional release by the Washington Nationals on Sunday, making
Dmitri Young the starting first baseman as the club made progress
on settling its 25-man roster.

Travis Lee Lee

The Nationals made several moves -- including sending
right-hander Tim Redding outright to Triple-A Columbus, which
solidifies Jerome Williams' spot in the rotation -- and began to
prepare for starting the season without Nook Logan in center field.

"It's going to be at least two weeks," before Logan can return
after straining his right groin Saturday, manager Manny Acta said.

Said general manager Jim Bowden: "The one thing we don't want
to do is bring him back too early and have him pull it and be out a
long time."

Ryan Church started in center on Sunday against the Atlanta
Braves, while Chris Snelling took Church's spot in left. Logan's
injury also makes it pretty certain that Kory Casto, who's never
been above Double-A, will make the team.

"We're leaning more toward finding out what Casto can really do
up here," Acta said.

Casto would get time in the outfield, but Bowden said he also
could see time as a backup at first base, where Young and utility
player Robert Fick are the only other options now.

Bowden said Lee "explained to me that it was a difficult
decision for him, but that he did not have the passion to play the
game anymore. He said he felt that way last year and was hoping it
could be rekindled this year."

Lee was hitting .267 as he competed initially with prospect
Larry Broadway and then with Young for the starting job at first
base while Nick Johnson recovers from a broken leg.

Lee has a .997 career fielding percentage at first base, never
making more than six errors in a season.

Redding now must decide whether to accept his minor league
assignment or become a free agent.

"He's just got to go down there and get his act together and
hopefully get a shot later on," said Acta, who managed Redding in
the minors in the Houston Astros' organization.

Also Sunday, right-hander Joel Hanrahan was optioned to
Columbus, another demotion that ties in with Williams' earning a
rotation spot, alongside John Patterson, Shawn Hill and Matt Chico
(who allowed five earned runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings against
the Braves on Sunday).

"I think it's safe to say that Jerome Williams is in the
rotation right now," Acta said.

The other member probably would be Jason Simontacchi, but he's
sidelined by a groin injury. The right-hander, who last pitched in
the majors in 2004, was originally slated to start Sunday against

"He's not going to start the season with us. He's not going to
be able to do it," Acta said.

In other moves, right-hander Jermaine Van Buren and left-hander
Billy Traber cleared waivers and were assigned outright to
Columbus, freeing up two spots on the 40-man roster. Infielders
D'Angelo Jimenez and Joe Thurston, catcher Juan Brito and
left-hander Mike Bacsik were reassigned to minor league camp.

Jimenez was in competition for a reserve infielder role with
Josh Wilson, who will now make the team.

"He played great, hitting-wise and fielding-wise," Jimenez
said. "I'm not hurt."