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Nats eyeing Downs to fill lefty-reliever void

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals are in need of left-handed relievers, and has learned that the team has expressed interest in Scott Downs, who played for the Expos from 2000-04. A baseball source said the Nats have inquired about Downs at least twice. It's not known what kind of contract Downs is seeking.

Downs, 37, was a starter when he played for Montreal, but since leaving the organization, Downs has become valuable left-handed specialist for the Blue Jays, Angels and Braves. Last season, Downs had a combined 2.59 ERA for the Angels and Braves in 43 games, while left-handers hit .259 against him.

Downs had his best season in 2011 with the Halos, going 6-3 with a 1.34 ERA in 60 games. Lefties hit .179 against Downs that year.

Downs is not the only lefty specialist the Nationals are eyeing. According to the Washington Post, the team is looking at Oliver Perez and J.P. Howell.

Howell, who had interest in signing with Washington last year, is a free agent once again. Last season, he pitched for the Dodgers and had a 2.03 ERA, while lefties hit .154 against him.

Perez revived his career the last two years with the Mariners. This past season, lefty hitters had a .238 batting average against Perez, who also averaged 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

The Nats consider Sammy Solis a future starter, but if he makes the team out of Spring Training in 2014, Solis could be considered to serve as one of the lefties out of the bullpen.'s Jonathan Mayo ranks Solis as the 11th-best prospect in the organization.

Washington also is thinking about using Ross Detwiler out of the bullpen. Detwiler spent a lot of time on the disabled list in 2013 because of back problems. He is healthy now and will be ready for Spring Training.

The Nationals have been looking for lefty relievers after trading Ian Krol and Fernando Abad the last two weeks. The only lefty they have from last year's 25-man roster is Xavier Cedeno, who wasn't used until the month of September when the team was almost out of the division race. Then-manager Davey Johnson had no choice but to use Cedeno because Krol and Abad had difficulty getting hitters out.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

Washington Nationals, Scott Downs