Baker on tough decisions, Perez on returning from WBC

VIERA, Fla. - As the days down here dwindle, the Nationals must prepare to make their toughest decisions of the spring: the final roster spots on their bench and in their bullpen.

And though baseball executives and managers typically won't admit it, there oftentimes are more to these decisions than the simple question of which player is better than the other.

"Contrary to popular belief, contractual things do make a difference sometimes on who you're trying to keep," manager Dusty Baker said today. "The guaranteed contracts, if you got options, if you don't have options, if we're going to lose you to somebody else, if you have an out clause. A lot of these things, I'm not privileged to that information. Nor do I want to be sometimes because I don't want that to play into my decision when I cast a vote."

Dusty-Baker-toothpick.jpgBaker suggested the coaching staff and front office plans to meet Thursday "to try to hash this things out," so some significant decisions could be coming soon.

There currently are 40 players in big league camp, though two of those players (right-handers Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Barrett) will open the season on the disabled list.

Some of the toughest decisions facing the club involve the delicate balance that must be weighed between keeping the best 25 players versus making sure there's enough organization depth to account for the injuries that inevitably will arise during the season.

"We're gonna try to leave with the best team that we can, and leave with not only on the field but the best team as backups, in case something does happen," Baker said. "It's a tough situation if you're not one of the 25. Maybe you're the first call-up or a backup. ...

"And sometimes you don't keep the best 25 because they may need more seasoning. You might have the most ability, but they need to play because it's not going to help their progress sitting around. You're getting them at-bats. It's a pleasant problem to have. A whole bunch of people wish they had our problem."

* Oliver Perez rejoined the Nationals today after a week away from the club to represent his native Mexico in one of the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournaments. The veteran left-hander appeared in two games, retiring all four batters he faced, and recorded the final out that clinched his team a berth in next spring's international competition.

"When you wear the colors for your country and all the people are watching you, I take that opportunity every time," said Perez, who previously pitched for Mexico in the 2006, 2009 and 2013 WBCs. "That was the first time I played in qualifying games. Normally, we're already in the Classic. So this tournament was kind of different for me and kind of exciting."

Perez had only made two appearances for the Nationals before leaving camp. At this point, he has only faced 10 total batters this month, but he said this is the same amount of work he typically would have at this point of the spring.

"Normally, here I don't pitch in back-to-back games, not yet," he said. "So it's kind of the same thing. I'll be ready to go for the start of the season."

* Principal owner Mark Lerner and general manager Mike Rizzo presented a $10,000 check to the Viera High School baseball team before today's game. The donation (which officially was made to the nonprofit Hawks RBI Club, Inc.) is intended to be used for the construction of a new on-campus hitting and pitching facility at the school, which sits just across the street from Space Coast Stadium.

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