With Speigner, Acta Is Forced To 'Think Hard'

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Washington Nationals officials will make a decision this week about the future of right-hander Levale Speigner, the 26-year-old converted reliever who is struggling mightily as a starter. Speigner's next scheduled start is Friday against the San Diego Padres, and Manager Manny Acta and General Manager Jim Bowden will consider all options for that spot, given Speigner's 14.81 ERA in his three starts.

"There are other options," Acta said. "We just don't know if they're the best, or if you're going to put people out of position. We're going to have to think hard on this one and [choose] what's best for us. I'm not saying the kid is out of it yet."

The club chose Speigner in the Rule 5 draft, meaning it must keep him on the major league roster all season or offer him back to his original club, the Minnesota Twins. Given Speigner's 8.39 ERA in 15 appearances, Acta was asked if the club was considering the latter.

"Not at this point," Acta said.

With injuries to four-fifths of the starting rotation -- as well as to two starters at Class AAA Columbus, Joel Hanrahan and Emiliano Fruto -- Washington has few options. Right-hander Tim Redding has a 6.54 ERA in 10 starts for Columbus. Left-hander Chris Michalak has made five starts for Columbus since returning from an injury, going 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA.

One person Acta said would not be considered is left-hander Billy Traber, who has a 1.23 ERA in six appearances out of the Nationals' bullpen. Last year, Traber had a 7.75 ERA in eight starts for Washington, but didn't allow a run in seven relief appearances. "We really like what he can do out of the pen," Acta said. "We think that's where he can have success."

Schedule Gets Harder

In winning four of their last five series, the Nationals played teams that entered play yesterday with a combined .452 winning percentage. Atlanta was the only opponent during that stretch with a winning record. Nationals' opponents over the next month have a .534 combined winning percentage. Six of their next nine series are against teams in first or second place in their divisions, including the Dodgers tonight through Thursday and the Padres over the weekend.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company