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Nats turn attention to LaRoche, bullpen

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- General manager Mike Rizzo didn't have much to do at the Winter Meetings when it came to improving the Nationals, but on Tuesday, he added a starter to his already impressive rotation, getting right-hander Dan Haren to agree to a one-year, $13 million contract, pending a physical. Haren is expected to take the exam on Thursday.

The Nats are done as far as starting pitchers go, but they are still looking to re-sign one of their own free agents, first baseman Adam LaRoche, who is looking for a three-year deal. The Nationals made it clear to LaRoche's agent on Monday, however, that they are offering no more than two years.

Asked if he is confident about re-signing LaRoche, Rizzo said, "I feel optimistic that we could get him signed. He wants to be here, and we want him here, so I'm optimistic. ... I'm not going to put a time frame on it. We have our offer on the table, and we are not going to pressure Adam into doing anything sooner than he is ready to do it. We made it clear to him that a two-year deal ... works for us. We have been pretty clear on that."

With reliever Zach Duke back on a one-year deal, manager Davey Johnson would like a second left-handed reliever for his bullpen, since there is no chance left-hander Sean Burnett will return, as he is looking for a multiyear deal. The team would not mind re-signing Mike Gonzalez, who had a nice comeback season in 2012, appearing in 47 games and posting a respectable 3.07 ERA. Tom Gorzelanny made $3 million last year, but he'll to sign for a lot less if he wants to return.

"Gonzalez did a good job for us, and I love Gorzelanny," Johnson said. "I'll miss Sean Burnett. He's probably going to go somewhere else. But we had a great core out there that got along very well and helped one another -- not only on the field but off the field. And you don't want to mess with that mix too much. So hopefully we'll get one of those guys who was with us last year."

Johnson also wants infielder Mark DeRosa to return. Although DeRosa missed a lot of time because of injuries, he was a huge influence on the young players in the clubhouse, and he is credited for helping Roger Bernadina have his best season after telling the outfielder to use a lighter bat.

"I'm not saying DeRosa isn't going to be back. We have to have somebody doing karaoke in the clubhouse," Johnson joked. "I've talked to him over the winter, and it just depends on what happens the next few days or months here. He didn't put up the numbers, but he was a pretty good influence on my young guys. Depending what we do, I still wouldn't mind having him on the bench. He's a very capable defender. It was an off year a little bit offensively, but he got some big hits for us."

Rizzo has not talked DeRosa or his agent. For the moment, Rizzo believes his bench is set, but he'll keep an open mind when it comes to bringing back DeRosa.

Johnson also gave Danny Espinosa a vote of confidence, believing the second baseman will have a strong season in 2013.

"I think Danny's going to come in this coming year with a mind-set kind of like Ian Desmond came into last year, and it's going to be his job to lose," Johnson said.

Washington Nationals