NATIONALS NOTEBOOK

Escobar Is Off-Center In Outfield

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 22, 2006

After one game in center field at RFK Stadium, Alex Escobar said on Saturday night, "I didn't feel comfortable out there." Yesterday, Escobar's adventures continued in his second trip to center for the Washington Nationals since being called up from Class AA Harrisburg.

The onetime top prospect of the New York Mets got a horrendous jump on a ball hit by Baltimore Orioles left-hander Bruce Chen in the second and allowed the ball to fall off his glove, a play that was ruled a hit. He then kicked the ball toward left field, scooped it up and threw out Nick Markakis, who was trying to score all the way from first, at the plate for the final out of the inning.

"It's the first time here," Escobar said. "It's a little tough to pick up the ball at first. I'm getting used to it."

Escobar made a throwing error on Friday night, when he also broke back on a ball that was hit in front of him, a ball that fell in for a hit. When he made his miscue yesterday, Manager Frank Robinson had a lengthy chat with him in the dugout between innings.

"He's playing deep already," Robinson said, "and he has a tendency to break back on the ball. That's all I told him, a couple pointers on how to approach that."

Johnson's Slump Continues

Since going 4 for 5 on May 10 at Cincinnati to raise his average to .320, first baseman Nick Johnson hasn't had more than one hit in a game. Robinson responded by sitting Johnson for just the second time all year, a decision made easier because the Orioles started Chen. Yet Johnson appeared in the sixth inning as a pinch hitter, grounding into a double play at a key moment. His 6-for-33 slide has dropped his average to .291.

"I'm sliding, not letting my hands work," Johnson said. "I can't get to pitches." . . .

To make room for outfielder Escobar on the 40-man roster, the Nationals moved right-hander Pedro Astacio to the 60-day disabled list.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company