Lineup Close To Being Back Intact

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 3, 2007

SAN DIEGO, May 2 -- Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta said Wednesday that, barring a setback, center fielder Nook Logan will join the team Monday in Milwaukee and play that night for the first time since Opening Day, when he suffered a foot injury that cost him the first month of the season.

Coupled with the expected return of shortstop Cristian Guzman from a hamstring injury that same day, the Nationals should have the roster they expected to have intact by the time they return to Washington for a 10-game homestand that begins May 11.

Logan, a switch-hitting defensive whiz, began playing in games at extended spring training in Viera, Fla., just Monday, but Acta said his progress has been swift.

"He has recovered quicker than we expected," Acta said. "He's stealing bases, hitting triples. He's showing up to the park with no complaints, and right now all we need from him, more than Guzman, is the amount of at-bats. We need him to get as many at-bats between today and Saturday to be as close as possible for Monday."

Acta said that he expects to stick both Logan and Guzman into the lineup immediately upon their return, meaning shortstop Felipe Lopez would move to second base, second baseman Ronnie Belliard would go to the bench, left fielder Kory Casto would go to the bench or to Class AAA Columbus, and center fielder Ryan Church would move back to left, his natural position.

Acta believes that lineup -- though it adds a pair of light hitters in Guzman and Logan -- will prove much better defensively. Though he said of Church, "I can't give him enough praise" for how he has played center field, his move to left will shore up that position as well.

Simontacchi Works

Right-hander Jason Simontacchi, who won a spot in the Nationals' rotation in spring training but then strained his right groin, made his second start for Columbus on Wednesday, allowing six earned runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings against Rochester, Minnesota's top affiliate. Even with the rough outing, Simontacchi could be in line to take Jerome Williams's spot in the rotation Tuesday in Milwaukee.

"He felt good," Acta said. "His legs didn't feel as weak as last time."

Acta stopped short of committing to Simontacchi as the replacement for Williams, who is on the disabled list with a sprained ankle.

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