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Bullpen options highlight Nats' first day at Meetings

Left-hander Duke re-signs; fellow lefty Burnett appears unlikely to return

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo spent the first part of Monday with his staff, going over the makeup of the club and strategizing how to improve it during the Winter Meetings.

As it turned out, the Nats didn't make any news until early Monday afternoon, when they re-signed left-hander Zach Duke. He may get a chance to become a fifth starter, but Rizzo acknowledged that Duke more than likely will be a long reliever, replacing Tom Gorzelanny.

"We are going to keep him stretched out in Spring Training and see where we are at with the fifth starter spot," Rizzo said. "He will give us some depth, a guy who has started in the past. I think the same could be said for Christian Garcia. Duke will be in the mix for a fifth starting job or at least starting depth. If not, he will [be the long reliever manager] Davey [Johnson] likes in the bullpen."

Rizzo would like to acquire another lefty reliever. The team would like to re-sign Sean Burnett, but he is asking for too much money. It was reported that he is looking for a multiyear deal. Burnett is also coming off elbow surgery.

"We've touched base with Sean's people," Rizzo said. "We like Sean, we would like to bring him back, but it has to make sense for us. But right now, I don't see a fit financially or term-wise. But he hasn't signed with anybody yet. We'll see where it lead us."

The Nationals continue to look for an impactful starting pitcher to join Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler. Reports surfaced recently that they would love to acquire Rays right-hander James Shields or Zack Grienke, who is currently a free agent.

"We've touched base with some agents, we have touched base with some teams. Just general conversations that we've had so far," Rizzo said. "... There are plenty of pitchers that are available that could help us, that will improve us. We are looking at all the avenues in trying to decide which is the best fit for us."

If they trade for Shields, the Nats likely will trade Michael Morse and maybe another infielder. Second baseman Danny Espinosa has mentioned as a person who could be dealt for a pitcher.

The Nationals could play Steve Lombardozzi at second base. They have not ruled out Anthony Rendon, their top Draft pick in 2011, making the switch from third to second base.

Rizzo said he has received a lot of inquiries about Morse, but the Nats have not called to try to deal their right-handed-hitting slugger.

"We have not made one call about [Morse]," Rizzo said. "We fielded a lot of calls, and you can see the reason why. He is a middle-of-the-lineup hitter, who put up some big numbers. He hits for average and some power."

First baseman Adam LaRoche continues to be a top priority for the Nationals. The problem is LaRoche wants a three-year deal, while Washington is willing to give him only a two-year pact.

"There is nothing new on the LaRoche situation," Rizzo said.

LaRoche recently found out that the Red Sox are no longer interested in his services, as they signed Mike Napoli to play first base. If the Nats sign LaRoche, it's going to impact some other decisions they have to make.

"Sooner rather than later is our preference, but we are not going to pressure Adam into anything that he is not comfortable doing," Rizzo said.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Sean Burnett, Zach Duke