May 24, 2012

The process of putting Henry Rodriguez back together again began Wednesday night in Philadelphia, and it was a slow start.

Manager Davey Johnson promised a “less-demanding role” for Rodriguez after moving him out of the closer role following Monday night’s final-straw implosion. Rodriguez’s first chance came last night with the Nationals trailing, 3-0, in the bottom of the eighth.

He walked the first batter he faced, Hunter Pence, on five pitches, all fastballs, one of them deflecting off Jesus Flores’s mitt and scooting all the way to backstop. Two batters later, after Pence was thrown out stealing, Shane Victorino launched a 3-2 fastball over the right field fence. Rodriguez then got out of the inning.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of battles to be won. He’s taking it pretty hard when he’s not successful. But he’ll be back. He’ll be all right.”

In his second year with the Nationals, Corey Brown has become the player they hoped they had traded for. Brown arrived with the Nationals in December 2010, in the trade that sent Josh Willingham to the Oakland A’s and also brought Henry Rodriguez. His first season was a string of disappointments, injuries mixed with ineffective play. “Last year was a tough year for him,” Nationals Director of Player Development Doug Harris said. “And it snowballed.”

This year has been different. Brown has been dominant at Class AAA Syracuse in the season’s first 46 games. He has hit .286 with a .394 on-base percentage and a .531 slugging percentage, with 10 home runs in 175 at-bats – he leads all players in the Nationals organization in homers.

— Adam Kilgore

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