Nationals May Have Found a Starter

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 27, 2007

LAKELAND, Fla., March 26 -- Washington Nationals right-hander Jason Bergmann overcame a shaky start during a two-run first inning Monday, but he was encouraged after following that up with four scoreless innings in what became a 6-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers -- Bergmann's final start before the regular season.

Bergmann, who is competing for a spot on the Nationals' staff, made two mistakes in the first -- hanging an 0-2 slider that Ivan Rodriguez turned into a leadoff double, and throwing away a ball hit back to him by Gary Sheffield. But after two runs were in, he struck out Craig Monroe, Marcus Thames and Brandon Inge to escape further damage.

"He showed some [guts]," catcher Robert Fick said. "And nothing against him, but you know, we haven't seen that out of Bergmann yet, and that's pretty special. . . . He's pitching. He's not thinking out there, and he's keeping the ball down. If he makes a mistake, he's able to figure it out. He's really grown up."

Bergmann, who has served as both a starter and reliever for the Nationals the past two years, wouldn't allow that his performance could mean he would serve as a starter the first time through the rotation, a need the Nationals must fill because right-hander Jason Simontacchi likely will start the season on the disabled list.

"I just want to pitch and be a major league pitcher," he said. "That's my goal."

Booker Returns to Team

Reliever Chris Booker returned to the team after a six-day absence because of the death of his mother-in-law in his home town of Monroeville, Ala. He hadn't pitched in a Grapefruit League game since March 14.

"Really and truly, I don't think it'll affect my throwing," Booker said. "I've got to be able to distinguish between my job and the rest of life."

Booker came on in the ninth to face three batters, giving up a hit and a walk, and he was on the mound when the Tigers scored the winning run. . . .

Roger Bernadina, a 22-year-old who has never played above Class A, played center field, going 1 for 3 and fielding his position flawlessly. "Don't read anything into it," Manager Manny Acta said. . . .

Second baseman Felipe Lopez was scratched from the lineup with a stiff neck, but said he should be ready to play Tuesday. . . .

The club made a series of minor moves Monday, trading catcher Danny Ardoin to Houston for 26-year-old infielder Wade Robinson, a .269 hitter in four minor league seasons who likely will land at Class AA Harrisburg. The Nationals also purchased infielder Matt Rogelstad from Seattle to use as a middle infielder at Class A.

Pitcher Of the Day Levale Speigner, who hadn't been scored upon in 11 2/3 innings, threw two more scoreless innings before giving up one run in the eighth and being charged with three more in the ninth, putting his spring ERA at 2.40. Up Next vs. Mets at Viera, Fla., 7 p.m.

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