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Steve Watkins, Oscar Alvarez Join Nats' Nation

[February 4th] -- Jim Bowden must collect minor leaguers as a hobby. Today, he added four more. The Nationals signed RHP Steve Watkins, RHP Billy Sylvester, LHP Micah Bowie and LHP Oscar Alvarez to minor league contracts. Bowie and Sylvester played at class 'AA' Harrisburg last year, and didn't do enough to warrant a rehash here, but Watkins and Sylvester are "interesting."

Oscar Alvarez, 25, has yet to make it to the major leagues. In five full minor league campaigns, he has a record of 15-14, 3.58 in 244 innings. Playing for Springfield in the Texas League in 2005, Alvarez went 6-2, 3.40 with 59 strikeouts in 106 innings. Half of his 29 games were starts.

Watkins, 27, has some major league experience. In 2004, he pitched 14 innings for the San Diego Padres, crafting a 6.28 ERA. He has a seven-year minor league record of 38-40, 4.20. He pitched for Buffalo last year, going 9-2, 4.16 in 17 starts.

Alvarez and Watkins combined to go 24-16, 3.77 last season. Both are starters, and both have experience in long relief. Of the two, Alvarez may have an edge in making the Nationals (at some point in the future) because of his age (25) and his arm (lefty).

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