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"Happy Easter!" -- and more middle infield talk

That's what Jim Bowden said as he bounded into the clubhouse this morning. Let me get you some lineups (we're about to start) and then I'll update with news.

Washington:
Guzman -- 6
Lo Duca -- 2
Milledge -- 8
Johnson -- 3
Dukes -- 7
Mackowiak -- 9
Belliard -- 4
Boone -- 5
Redding -- 1

Florida:
Ramirez -- 6
Uggla -- 4
McPherson -- 5
Willingham -- 7
Cantu -- 3
Hoover -- 2
De Aza -- 8
VandenHurk -- 1

So the Nationals made a trade with the Twins to retain the rights to outfielder Garrett Guzman, a Rule 5 pick who Bowden believes could be a good fourth or fifth outfielder in the majors for a long time. The Nationals give up either a PTBNL (player to be named later) or cash, and that decision will be made by July 15. Guzman will start the year at Class AAA Columbus.

Elijah Dukes in the lineup again today, and he'll go nine innings, according to Manny Acta, to make sure his hamstring is in good shape.

"Johnny Estrada hasn't felt this good in years," Bowden said. But he still believes there's a chance Estrada will begin the year on the DL.

And, most important, Bowden addressed, again, the middle infield situation. "We are not close to a deal," he said.

Read his comments carefully. He does not mention Felipe Lopez or Ronnie Belliard by name. But I believe the message is clear.

"We're not close to a deal right now," Bowden said. "I would say that we certainly are going to have compassion for players on this team that are everyday players that are not going to get to play every day out of the get-go. I have compassion for that. If we could make a move to give them an opportunity to play every day and make our organization better, we'll do it. But we're not going to make a deal that we don't think is going to make our organization better, because we're all about winning. We're all about the team. We're not about invdividuals."

Rough translation: Felipe, we'd love to move you, but we can't find a taker right now, and we're not going to give you away. So given that, we expect you to sit on the bench quietly, to play hard when you get the opportunity, and to support your teammates.

We're now through the first inning-and-a-half, no hits for either side.

Thanks to Sheinin for doing outstanding work in my absence. Now, with both of our alma maters ousted from the tournament, we'll be able to focus on baseball absolutely and completely. Big week ahead, with our baseball preview section coming out Wednesday -- a Nats-centric section, to be sure -- and a complete special section coming out next Sunday, the day the park opens.

In today's $1.50 edition, I got into a little description of Manny Acta's strategies and philosophies, which I think have been overlooked. Sheinin finished his stint in Florida with the notebook, including the already-widely discussed news of Odalis Perez's impending Opening Night start. And Metro's Dan LeDuc covered the ballpark's first big event, the GW-St. Joe's game that served as a dry run.

And for the nostalgic among you, the Post Magazine has an ode to RFK.

I'm a little dazed after a 6:40 a.m. flight and a two-hour drive south from Orlando to Jupiter (town, not planet). Redding looks good here early. Will try to keep you updated.

By Barry Svrluga  |  March 23, 2008; 1:03 PM ET
 
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