Collective Goal Brings Traber Back to D.C.

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 7, 2006

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 6 -- When the Washington Nationals last saw Billy Traber, he was allowing four runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Cincinnati Reds in April. The next day, he was sent to Class AAA New Orleans, and he worked over the course of the summer to get back to the majors.

On Sunday, Traber, a 27-year-old left-hander, arrived in the visitors' clubhouse at Petco Park, and he will be available out of the bullpen for the Nationals until Wednesday. He is slated to start Saturday's game against the New York Mets at RFK Stadium, though he said his role is irrelevant.

"I'm here for us rather than myself," he said. "If they want me out of the pen, that's fine. They want me, period. That's what you want. It's not about what you're doing. It's about who you're helping."

Traber was 7-7 with a 4.05 ERA in 21 starts for New Orleans. He said when he returned to the minors, he had one goal.

"My whole focus was to chew up innings," he said. "If you're chewing up innings, you're doing something right." To that end, he threw at least six innings in nine of his last 11 starts in the minors. He said he worked with New Orleans pitching coach Steve McCatty on developing a cut fastball and tried to improve on holding runners.

Traber made two starts for the Nationals earlier in the season, beating the Philadelphia Phillies on April 20, then losing to the Reds five days later, finishing 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA.

Johnson's Fielding Woes

First baseman Nick Johnson has been shaky in the field lately, and he committed his eighth error of the season when he couldn't come up with a grounder hit by Adrian Gonzalez in the fifth. Johnson had never committed more than seven errors in his major league career, and has acknowledged his recent problems.

"I've still got to play relaxed, like I always do," Johnson said. "You can't be tight out there. But I've got to keep my head on the ball, maybe watch it into the glove a little more."

Johnson also might have made a play on a grounder from Brian Giles in the third, but said he didn't see the ball until too late. It was scored a single. . . .

Brian Schneider's stolen base in the eighth inning that helped the Nationals score the tying run was his first since April 17, 2005, and just the third of his career.

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