VIERA, Fla., March When it started a month ago, Bret Boone's comeback came attached with some fine print -- no minor leagues, and no position changes. But on Thursday, with his body not yet back in playing shape after two years out of the game and with no path for him to make the big league roster, the veteran second baseman accepted an assignment to the team's minor-league camp and said he expects to begin the season at Class AAA Columbus.
"I've come this far. I want to pursue it," said Boone, who turns 39 next month. "I think this is a win-win for everybody, and it lets me get at-bats every day, and lets the Nationals get their team ready right now."
Boone, a three-time all-star who retired during spring training in 2006, said he might re-evaluate his plans after a couple of weeks in Columbus. "It might be 80, 90, 100 at-bats before something clicks," he said, "and it may be 80, 90, 100 at-bats before my mind clicks and says, 'No, I don't want to do this anymore.' "
Boone may also be seeking to buy time for himself while the Nationals iron out their delicate situation at second base, where veteran Ronnie Belliard has outplayed Felipe Lopez this spring, while Lopez has publicly chafed at the notion of being relegated to the bench.