New Reliever Wagner Gets Roughed Up

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 3, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 2 -- The least-discussed player the Washington Nationals received from the Cincinnati Reds in last month's eight-player trade was right-hander Ryan Wagner. But if Wagner can pitch well in Washington, he could be a key to the deal that also brought outfielder Austin Kearns and shortstop Felipe Lopez, because he would offset the loss of relievers Bill Bray and Gary Majewski, now with the Reds.

That process is off to a slow start. Wagner pitched for the Nationals for the second time Wednesday afternoon, and the two solo homers he allowed in the seventh inning -- the first to Moises Alou, the second to Shea Hillenbrand -- proved to be the difference in an 8-6 loss.

"Basically, I threw two bad pitches," Wagner said, "and they both got hit out of the ballpark."

Simple enough. Wagner appeared twice in the Giants series, lasting 2 2/3 innings. He gave up five runs for an ERA of 16.88 with the Nationals. Asked his opinion of what was wrong with Wagner, Manager Frank Robinson said: "I've seen the guy what, three innings maybe? How am I supposed to know what his problem was? . . . All I know is he threw two balls pretty far today."

Wagner was the Reds' first-round draft choice in 2003, the last draft run by Cincinnati's then-general manager, Jim Bowden, who now runs the Nationals. When he made the trade, Bowden said he thought Wagner's mechanics could be corrected, and that process has begun. Instead of throwing over the top, as he has done most of the season, Wagner now employs a sidearm motion.

"It's tough making any changes, no matter when it is," Wagner said. "It's something I just got to fix and try to do it as quickly as possible."

Had Wagner pitched effectively with the Reds, the trade with Washington might never have happened. But Wagner was so poor with Class AAA Louisville -- 1-3 with a 6.34 ERA -- that the Reds felt they had to pursue bullpen help in order to make a charge at the National League's wild-card playoff berth.

Clearly, "I'm still working on things," Wagner said. "I'm starting to get good movement back on the ball. It's just trying to fine-tune things and get location back and get back to where I need to be."

Bonds Sits Again

Giants left fielder Barry Bonds sat out for the second straight day against the Nationals because of swelling in his right knee. Thus, Bonds finished the season 0 for 10 against Washington, though he did walk three times. Bonds has faced 17 other teams this year and has at least one hit against each of them. . . .

Alfonso Soriano's leadoff homer was his seventh of the season, and Wednesday was the fourth time he hit more than one homer in a game for Washington.

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