Reliever Eischen May Be Finished

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 1, 2006

PHILADELPHIA, May 31 -- Washington Nationals reliever Joey Eischen may have thrown the last pitch of his career. The club placed the veteran left-hander on the 60-day disabled list Wednesday morning after an MRI exam revealed what team personnel called a thickness tear of one of the rotator cuff muscles in his left shoulder. He will have surgery later this week.

Eischen, 36, has felt pain in his shoulder since spring training and had been ineffective much of the season, going 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA, walking 19 men in 14 2/3 innings.

"This is about the stage of his career," Manager Frank Robinson said, "where you don't know if it's the end of it."

The club plans to call up lefty Bill Bray from Class AAA New Orleans on Friday, when he will join the team in Milwaukee. Bray, among the organization's best pitching prospects, is 4-1 with a 3.98 ERA for the Zephyrs and has been impressive with 45 strikeouts and just nine walks in 31 2/3 innings.

When Bray arrives, the Nationals will have their top draft picks from 2003 to '05 in the majors. Closer Chad Cordero was the top pick in 2003; Bray in 2004 from William & Mary; and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman went fourth overall last season.

Robinson, though, clearly will miss Eischen, who he stuck by even in very difficult times. Eischen held lefties to two hits in 23 at-bats against him, but he walked six of them, including the final two he faced, Philadelphia's Chase Utley and Bobby Abreu on Monday night. Pitching hurt "just shows you what kind of heart this guy has," Robinson said.

Vidro Struggling

Second baseman Jose Vidro was leading the National League in hitting at the beginning of the week. But he failed to get a hit in the Phillies series and is now 0 for his last 16 to drop his average from .345 to .319. Wednesday he went 0 for 5, didn't hit the ball out of the infield and twice failed to plate runners in scoring position.

"Right now, I don't know what I'm doing at the plate," he said.

Vidro, though, said he is healthy, even after he stretched to take a throw covering first base on Saturday against Los Angeles. Robinson said he thought the two could fix something mechanically to get Vidro going again over the weekend in Milwaukee. . . . If it seems as if Alfonso Soriano goes to the plate looking for homers, it's because he does. "Every night, I'm going to the home plate looking for homers," he said. "If they throw a first-pitch fastball in the middle, I'm going to swing." Soriano leads the majors with 13 homers from the leadoff spot.

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