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Nationals Address Team's Need For Speed, Sign Jackson, Castro

[October 27th] -- The Washington Nationals stole 45 bases in 2005. They were caught stealing 45 times. Obviously, a lack of team speed needed to be addressed this off season. It took exactly one day for GM Jim Bowden make a move.

The Nationals signed 32 year old Damian Jackson and 27 year old Bernie Castro on Thursday. Jackson can play several infield and outfield positions, while Castro is strictly a second baseman.

Jackson played six position in 2005, batting .255 with 5 homers and 33 rbi's. He stole 15 bases in 17 attempts. He cleared waivers earlier this month and opted for free agency. Jackson has a career .245 average and strikes out too often for a player without power. He has 132 career stolen bases and has an amazing 79% success rate when stealing. Jackson will likely take the place of Carlos Baerga on the roster.

The Bernie Castro signing is very interesting. Castro was the recipient of the Pacific Coast League's "Fastest Man" award in 2005. Playing for Portland, Castro hit .315 with 41 stolen bases in 47 tries. In a September callup with Baltimore, he batted .288 for the Orioles with 6 stolen bases in 80 at-bats. Castro has 195 career minor league stolen bases, or a phenomenal 67 swipes per 500 at bats. Kind of makes you wonder why he was available as a free agent.

So, the opening of the free-agent signing period has begun. Jackson is a quality reserve who adds depth to a very thin team. Bernie Castro is a speed-demon, but he can only play second base, a position currently held down by Jose Vidro and Junior Spivey, both former major league all-stars.

It's a first step, but it's a good one.

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