Nationals manager Manny Acta placed a call to outfielder Ryan Church on Friday, with Acta giving Church nothing but positive reinforcement.
Church, according to Acta, was happy to hear from his new boss and feels he can have a fresh start with the Nationals in 2007.
"I've always gotten along with Church when I was in Montreal," Acta said. "It's going to be up to him. This is a make or break year for him to show the world what he can do or go in the other direction by becoming a fourth [outfielder]."
Last season, Church spent most of the time in the Minor Leagues, but he finished the season strong in the big leagues, going 40-for-131 (.305) with six home runs and 24 RBIs in his last 50 games.
It has been reported that Church is on the trading block, but Acta told him not to worry about that kind of talk and that he would give him a chance to battle for a starting job on the team.
"Obviously, he is a hot commodity and some teams have been asking about him," Acta said. "I didn't want him to worry about that. I was reassuring him that I was happy to be reunited with him and the at-bats are going to be there."
Church was not available for comment.
Acta said Church was not bothered by all the trade rumors, but he was concerned about how he is being portrayed in the press regarding the Mexican Winter League. It was reported that Church declined to go to Mexico under the advice of his agent, Jeff Borris, who said Church had nothing more to prove and should be given the chance to start for the Nationals. Church did, however, work with visualization specialist Bill Harrison on tracking the baseball.
"He felt that the winter ball thing was blown out of proportion," the skipper said. "He said it didn't happen that way. He said [the team in Mexico] decided to go with another player. "
In other news, Acta continues to back up his words about giving back to the community. He said he will have a session with fans at the Imperial's Hotel and Conference Center in Viera, Fla., on Monday. The Nationals' Spring Training facility is in that city. According to Florida Today, the event will start at 6 p.m. ET.
Looking for backup infielders, the Nationals have expressed interest in free agent D'Angelo Jimenez, according to sources outside the Nationals organization. Jimenez was with the Rangers and Athletics last year and hit a combined .183 with one home run and eight RBIs.
The team also is close to signing infielder/outfielder Jose Macias, who was a valuable player off the bench for the Expos in 2002 and '03. Macias played in Japan last season.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.