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Just when you thought you could rejoice

Well, the Nationals beat the Braves, 4-3, Thursday afternoon. They took three of four from a team that arrived here in first place. They have won six of seven on this homestand. And the (somewhat) hated Orioles come to RFK this weekend. Good times, right?

Well, it turns out that Jason Bergmann -- he of the near no-hitter on Monday and the opponents' batting average of .162 -- had a sore elbow when he woke up after his start. He went for an MRI yesterday, and though results were negative, he will miss his scheduled start Saturday.

Yes, you read that right. The Nationals are losing another starter. At least for one start -- and GM Jim Bowden said in an email that's what it would be, one start.

I talked to Bergmann a bit ago by phone. He didn't sound too down about it.

"After I started, I woke up a little stiff and sore," he said. He went in to see head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz, who didn't think there was too much terribly wrong. "He just told me to take it easy," Bergmann said.

They went for the MRI -- "Everything was precautionary," Bergmann said -- and though the elbow is structurally sound, he has some fluid in there. Bergmann told me he felt like he could pitch if needed, but it probably would be an unwise move for the long term.

Sorry to bring you down on this Thursday night. Perhaps you won't read it till Friday morning.

We won't know who starts in Bergmann's place until tomorrow, but the candidates aren't that appealing. They could move Micah Bowie (a reliever, by the way) up a day, but that leaves Sunday open. They could start Billy Traber, who made two starts in the minors among his 10 appearances, but he pitched both Wednesday and Thursday. Maybe moving Bowie up and then starting Traber Sunday would work.

Or they could go to the minors and get a starter. But that would involve demoting someone, and if Bergmann's not going on the disabled list, who would you send down? Winston Abreu? (He last started a minor league game in 2004, so he's not really a strong candidate, either.)

All right, I'm leaving the park. Off to see Son Volt at the 9:30 Club. I'll be back out here tomorrow with whatever news there is to find.

By Barry Svrluga  |  May 17, 2007; 7:28 PM ET
 
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Comments

Didn't Chico look nice this afternoon? And he timed his, um, outside pitches well.

Little bit of Smallball today, right when it was needed. (I love it when it's needed; I hate it when it's not, such as early in the game.)

Excellent parlay of DMeat and Guuuuz in the sixth to put a curly number on the board. Now Young needs to rest easy, because he may be on the mound come Saturday... oh, we'll make it through somehow. Barry, thanks for the heads-up; Jay, we're rooting for you to feel better soon.

Awesome performance on a gorgeous day! Oh you Nats!

Posted by: Hendo | May 17, 2007 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for working so late to bring us the news, even if it is this. I was hoping for better news, as I'm certain was the team and your faithful readers.

Posted by: grateful for your dedication | May 17, 2007 8:17 PM | Report abuse

I think starting Traber actually seems like kind of a good idea. He's had two innings of big league work, perhaps just enough to get him a little warmed up and readjusted? Now let him start, and he's not just being thrown up against Andruw Jones immediately after getting off the Columbus-Washington shuttle. They know he can start, and I realize they don't want to, but who else is going to do it?

Though I wouldn't mind seeing Michael Hinckley. I think he's handsome. I'm just kidding. We all know Jim's looking up Ponson's cell phone number.

Posted by: Atlanta | May 17, 2007 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Good call on Son Volt, Barry. I look forward to a mini-review tomorrow.

Dagger on Bergmann. Between him and Hill, I was getting to the point where I couldn't wait to watch their next starts. I remember John Patterson's problems last year started out innocently enough, too. I pray we don't go down that same road with JB.

Posted by: Wes Mantooth | May 17, 2007 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps it's time to stop looking at the targets and examine the marksman: if all these pitchers are developing arm trouble, perhaps there is some mechanical problem with how they are being instructed to pitch? Knowledgeable people declare Randy St. Claire to be a great pitching coach, but why are so many of our pitchers turning up lame? They can't all be hypochondriacs.

I'm hoping for the best and preparing mentally for the worst. The latter has become the norm this season. :-(

Posted by: Bote Man | May 17, 2007 9:28 PM | Report abuse

One thing that could be counted on this season has been that the Nats would lean heavily on pitchers who would not seriously be considered by many other major league clubs.

Executive summary: Young Arms At Risk For Problematic Team.

But, whatta ya gonna do? Buy some cheap veterans to eat innings? There ain't any, save perhaps Ponson (and if I were Jim, I'd have Sir Sidney's number on my speed dial, baggage notwithstanding). At this point we just have to hope that the guys who are being pushed to the edge don't end up falling over it.

This is the part of the season I hate, never mind if the team goes 121-0 from here on out. Pitchers are precious assets, and our guys are more than answering the call, perhaps to their detriment more often than we'd like to admit.

Posted by: Hendo | May 17, 2007 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Who hired Peter Angelos as the Nats' trainer?

Posted by: Nats Fan in KC | May 17, 2007 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Who hired Peter Angelos as the Nats' trainer?

Posted by: Nats Fan in KC | May 17, 2007 9:46 PM | Report abuse

... a win, a Win, A WIN! Three out of four from the mighty Braves. Life's good in May.

... now about TV games versus the 'net. Don't get me wrong. I watch all games on GameDay and am thankful to MLB for this service. But it sure doesn't match up to being able to watch the game on TV (or of course, watching from the stands). Tonight I was able to watch on tape from the TBS broadcast this afternoon. Here are a few of the things I noticed that I would never have even known about via GameDay:
- the number of empty seats in RFK.
- the totally incomprehensible strike zone of Davis, the HP ump.
- a ground out on a broken bat that flew out to the mound.
- a great catch in the stands by a fan on a foul pop.
- Flores hit on the head by Edgar R.'s back swing.
- speaking of Edgar, his out at the plate while he stood there.
- Austin's infield hit which would have been simply a 'run scoring hit' on GameDay.
... so it was great to watch the game especially at home. Didn't have to put up with that god-awful Braves 'chop'. Course there wouldn't have been much of that today. :)

... here are some reflections about the Nats after having seen them:
- Ronnie B. looked capable and confident at SS. Made a nice play going to his left. But he still is chunky.
- Tony B. looked out of place but satisfactory at 1B.
- Jesus F. looked very good behind the plate. Very promising indeed.
- Matt C. looked like a gem in the making on the mound.
- Ryan C. looked like the Church of old when he stood and watched his double instead of running it out.
- Nook does not look like a starter to me.
- Felipe Lopez is my favourite National, and I was concerned at the first of the game because he seemed to me to be distracted and just not in the game. By the end of the game I had certainly changed my mind. Three quarters of a cycle ain't at all bad.

... and finally, I have to say that the team (at least today) showed absolutely no emotion. They just went about their business almost as if they were there simply because it is their job. There was no chatter on the field or in the dug-out; there was no laughing and joking and conversely no evidence of disgust or anger. What I want to see is emotion. I want to watch the guys play because they mean it, because they like it, because it means something to them. I didn't see any of that today. Maybe the "No Fun League" rules have seeped into RFK and are now colouring everything else there.


... postscript: re: Bergmann. As I said earlier, we just can't win for losing.

Posted by: david f watts | May 17, 2007 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Watts: Good observations.

I do miss the 30K+ crowds we had for the 1:05 Thursday games in 2005, but in the long run I guess empty seats for a day game for a struggling team are to be expected.

As for the lack of chatter or banter, I'm OK with that. I suspect that Manny's low-key approach may be seeping into these guys. Emotion can work both ways. If these guys are *just* out there to get a job done as a team -- *and* are getting it done -- then that speaks of emotion on the inside, where it counts.

Posted by: Hendo | May 17, 2007 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Feeling a little guilty. I was only able to catch the first 3 innings on TBS as I had a 2:30 tee time at Parris Island. Lo and behold, I came home to find they had beaten the dastardly Bravos...again. I played with a Braves fan, so naturally I can't wait to see him again..soooon. He doesn't much care for my Nats sticker and license plate proclaiming ME as the Nats #1 fan, but I get a kick out of it. Now if we can just patch together 27 innings of pitching against the hated Oreos.

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | May 17, 2007 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Dang -- why did I have to check the blog tonite? Feel better, Jason.

Posted by: natsfan1a | May 17, 2007 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Oh, CRAP! Ditto to natsfan1a. Shoulda stayed away until the morning.

...And to think that Saturday's game was the one on my 20-game plan and that I was actually looking forward to seeing Bergmann in the flesh.

Hhhhhhhh...

Does SNAKEBIT accurately capture this pitching staff???

Posted by: Juan-John | May 17, 2007 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the lack of chatter/emotion was because they were burnt out a little bit from last night?

I bet they'll have it back Fri night against the O's...

Posted by: A DC Wonk | May 18, 2007 12:09 AM | Report abuse

Me, too, on having looked forward to seeing Bergmann in the flesh at Saturday's game. Good that they're trying to protect young arms, though.

Posted by: natsfan1a | May 18, 2007 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I forgot to say "thanks" for the great Orioles/Nats comparison piece in this a.m.'s paper edition.

Posted by: natsfan1a | May 18, 2007 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Hi Hendo,

... I feel like I'm in the midst of my own personal tug-of-war when it comes to emotion versus emotion-less baseball. But it's really a win-win situation. I have lauded Manny's attitude previously and I still support that. If his even-keel demeanour results in a solid credible ball team, that's great. On the other hand, as a fan, I look for evidence of heart and 'in the game-ness' which, again as a fan, I can only ascertain from the visible behaviour I witness on the field and during a game. So whichever way is the underlying mind-set of the team will be fine with me.

Hi Bote Man,

... I am one of those staunch supporters of St. Claire and his proven abilities, But I will certainly agree that you have posed a very important question. Heaven forbid that his methods have a dark side, which has led to this current rash of injuries. I hope Barry or one of the other "wretched scribes" can find the time to do a one-on-one with Randy and put the question to him.

Posted by: david f watts | May 18, 2007 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Nice vid on Washington Post Live yesterday, talking about the beltway series and the rivalry or lack thereof:

http://specials.washingtonpost.com/nationals/podcasts/washington-post-live/2007/may/17/nats-and-os/video/

The most disturbing part is the candid discussion of how Angelos has trashed the once iconic Orioles' brand. That's shameful enough in itself, but nearly criminal when multiple sports compete for attention year-round. In today's environment, MLB can't afford that kind of owner, not if it expects to be able to continue to field 30 viable franchises, much less grow the sport.

Angelos' extortion of broadcast rights and a guarantee of resale value for the Orioles franchise may well be a Pyrrhic victory.

Posted by: Hendo | May 18, 2007 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Hey Barry,

... I see that the Nats are in Camden on June 13th. You should call in sick that day, so you can go to the "9:30" that night. A good old Maritime Canada woman - Feist - is appearing, and she's great.

... that goes for anyone else of our group with a hankerin' for some alternative.

Posted by: david f watts | May 18, 2007 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the heads up, Hendo. Will check it out.

Posted by: natsfan1a | May 18, 2007 8:32 AM | Report abuse

"...Is there a word to describe that uneasy feeling about too much success?"

Now I know what the uneasy feeling was.....

sigh

Posted by: NatsNut | May 18, 2007 9:12 AM | Report abuse

... you know, I've been thinking. I don't much like talk of who can or should be traded during this particular season. For my money (which admittedly stays in my geographically-distant pocket), I'd much rather they waited until the off-season or next spring before bringing in new faces to the team. I'd also say that when situations arise (as with Bergmann's spot this weekend), call ups from the minors might be in order - not to keep a winning streak alive, but to 'keep it all in the family' so to speak.

... it seems to me this team as it exists today, is becoming both a (dedicated) fan favourite, and a cohesive club-house entity. If it's true as we all accept, that this year is destined to be a write-off anyway, why not let this particular group come together closer and closer. Then after play this year, start making the necessary adjustments.

... I say this of course, realising there may be times during the summer when a short period of availability for someone we really want and need might preclude waiting. But in the long run, I'd be much happier as a fan if Jim B. and the others let the team as it is now gel more firmly.

... anyone want to argue??

Posted by: david f watts | May 18, 2007 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Whatever happened to Astacio? He was brought in late in spring training. Did he get dismissed again? When is Claussen going to be ready?

Posted by: NatBisquit | May 18, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

At some point the best way to stay ON PLAN may be to add a mercinary type starter. You don't want to blow up your plan by pushing young arms out to the mound before they are ready. So, while I hope they stay on plan, that might mean bringing in a washed up 6.00 ERA type pitcher just to protect the youth.

Posted by: NatBisquit | May 18, 2007 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Watts, re trades, I agree, with a caveat.

To be sure, Zimmerman-for-Santana and the like are temptations that should be sturdily avoided. (As I've said before, I'd also want Mauer, plus cash or a PTBNL.)

However, there will be multiple decision points during the season where Jim, Mike, and Manny sit down and evaluate offers that include prospects. That's where the pain will begin for the fans.

Who wasn't sad to see Livan go? But look what we've got in return: two very nice prospects in Chico and Mock. This kind of opportunity is going to present itself again and again.

Pain tolerance exercise: For the right package of prospects, should and would the Nats part with...

Schneider? (Ow.)
Cordero? (Ow.)
Church? (Ow.)

More likely we'll see the departure of guys like Young, Belliard, or Batista to pennant contenders that have a need. Just don't expect it to end there. If the more painful scenarios I cite aren't at least considered by the front office, whether they ever pull the trigger or not, then they aren't doing their job.

Posted by: Hendo | May 18, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Juan-John:

I too was looking forwad to JB starting Sat. But I saw him do his 5 inning no-hit thing last Fri. Did you not also?

David F. Watts:

Dmitri Young (Anyone know how he got the nickname "Meathook"?) is a prime candidate for a trade when and if Nick Johnson comes back--No ifs ands or buts. He has a good bat but barely adequate first base skills (another fan and I got into it over his assertion that DY has NO first base skills.). Of course Nick has to come back.

Posted by: Sec 417 Row 8 Seat 9 | May 18, 2007 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Hendo and Sec 417,

... of course you are both correct - mrthodically - with your comments on mid-season trades. In my defence, I have only one thing to say: I was speaking, as I often do, with my heart and not my head. :)

... love these Friday mornings with lots of time to converse.

Posted by: david f watts (I really do have to get a moniker) | May 18, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Hendo and Sec 417,

... of course you are both correct - methodically - with your comments on mid-season trades. In my defence, I have only one thing to say: I was speaking, as I often do, with my heart and not my head. :)

... love these Friday mornings with lots of time to converse.

Posted by: david f watts (I really do need to get a moniker) | May 18, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

You mean to tell me that on top of being a stellar baseball beat writter, you also have decent taste in music, Barry? See you at 930 Club sometime!

Posted by: AT | May 18, 2007 10:48 AM | Report abuse

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