Astros on short end of slugfest

KISSIMMEE, FL The Washington third baseman homered and drove in four runs in a 12-10 win over the split-squad Houston Astros, after he agreed to a slight raise that bumps his salary this season to $465,000.

The renewed deal gets the runner-up in the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year voting by for now, while his agent keeps talking with the Nationals about a longer commitment. Zimmerman becomes eligible for arbitration after this season.

"It's just part of the system," Zimmerman said. "I'm not upset by any means. They have control for three years and that's just how it goes. Many people before me have done it the same way. There's no hard feelings either way."

Zimmerman, who was 2-for-4 against the Astros, received a signing bonus of nearly $3 million after being drafted with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2005 amateur draft. The 24-year-old hit .266 with 24 homers and 91 RBIs last season.

"I'm not opposed to doing the deal," Zimmerman said. "It's just going to be a matter of having it make sense for both sides. But as far as me being involved, now it's time for baseball. My job is to help this team win, not worrying about getting a new contract."

Zimmerman homered Saturday along with teammates Luis Jimenez and Ronnie Belliard, his second of the spring, taking advantage of 36 mph winds blowing toward right field.

Carlos Lee hit his second home run of the spring for Houston.

"We were taking batting practice and I was hitting some balls hard and hitting the scoreboard (in right field)," Belliard said. "I just planned to go the other way with the pitches. We carried that plan over into the game."

The wind was not as kind to the starting pitchers. Washington's Tim Redding allowed five earned runs on six hits and two walks over three innings. Houston's Felipe Paulino surrendered five runs on four hits and four walks over three innings.

"It was hard for me to get a consistent grip on the ball," Redding said. "I'm a guy that usually pitches off of my four-seam fastball. I wasn't able to get a feel for that today."

Astros manager Cecil Cooper was pleased with the production he got from leadoff hitter Kazuo Matsui, who finished 3-for-3 with two doubles, two RBIs and a stolen base. Matsui is competing with Michael Bourn for the top spot in the Astros' batting order.

"At the top they've got to set the tone," Cooper said. "They've got to get on base and create situations for us."

Notes: Washington starter Shawn Hill, who has not pitched this spring, felt pain in his right forearm on Friday while playing catch. General manager Jim Bowden said Hill received a cortisone injection to control inflammation on Friday night and experienced instant relief. It's not known when he'll pitch again. ... Nats OF Lastings Milledge went 2-for-2 with a double, three walks and an RBI. ... Houston pitcher Fernando Nieve threw a side session on Saturday. He hasn't pitched this spring due to a hamstring pull. ... Houston reliever Mark McLemore surrendered four runs on three hits in just 1 2/3 innings.

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