NATIONALS NOTEBOOK

Pitchers Are Warned to Stem Torrid Rate of Walks

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The problem has grown so acute that Randy St. Claire, the Washington Nationals' pitching coach, decided to tackle it head on. Nationals relievers are issuing too many walks -- the second most of any bullpen in baseball -- and it is costing the Nationals games, so St. Claire met with his staff prior to Sunday's game in Baltimore.

"It can get in your head," reliever Gary Majewski said. "You start thinking about the man at first instead of the guy at the plate. You have to concentrate on the next hitter, but it can be hard."

Entering play yesterday, Majewski had walked 24 hitters in 47 1/3 innings of work, the second most of any reliever in baseball, trailing only St. Louis closer Jason Isringhausen. Lefties Joey Eischen and Mike Stanton each have 19 walks -- tied for sixth in the National League despite the fact that Eischen has been on the disabled list since May 31 -- and right-hander Jon Rauch has 17, tied for 12th in the NL.

Last season, Nationals relievers walked 182 men, and only three NL teams walked fewer. It's hardly a coincidence, then, that the bullpen's ERA in 2005 was 3.55, third best in the NL. This year, with the team on pace for an astonishing 265 walks out of the bullpen -- an average of 1.6 per game -- the relievers' ERA is nearly a run worse at 4.52.

Prospects Tabbed

Nationals scouting director Dana Brown and player personnel director Bob Boone have both seen New York Yankees Class AA affiliate Trenton over the past two weeks, an indication of the Nationals' hope that the Yankees might eventually be willing to deal hard-throwing right-hander Philip Hughes as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. Hughes, the youngest player in the Class AA Eastern League at 20, is 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings, and some Nationals executives believe he's no worse than a No. 3 starter in the majors, "and he could be a [No.] 1," one executive said.

The trade front, for now, is quiet for the Nationals, but the scouting staff is working on building complete files on the top prospects in each organization that might be willing to trade over the next month, a group that includes the Yankees, Boston, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Angels and the New York Mets. . . .

With just a week remaining, left fielder Alfonso Soriano remained among the top three outfielders in voting for the National League all-star team. Pittsburgh's Jason Bay took the lead among outfielders, and Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets sits in second. Soriano leads Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. by 117,939 votes. The team will be announced on Sunday night.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company