Injured Pitchers Are Starting to Make Strides

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 10, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS, June 9 -- Jason Bergmann and Jerome Williams, two of the four injured starting pitchers for the Washington Nationals, took another step Saturday to returning to the active roster, and it appears likely that by the end of the month the club will have some choices to make regarding who to keep and who to send to the minors.

Bergmann, out with inflammation in his right elbow, and Williams, out with a right shoulder strain, each threw 45 pitches in bullpen sessions Saturday at the Metrodome. Neither felt any pain, and both appear close to being sent on rehabilitation assignments.

"It's encouraging," Manager Manny Acta said. "But you know, also you got to feel good about the way these guys have filled in for these guys."

In the 30 games from Opening Day to May 5 -- the day John Patterson made his last start before going on the disabled list with elbow and biceps soreness resulting from a nerve problem -- the Nationals' starting rotation had a 5.10 ERA, and the club went 9-21. In the 31 games from May 6 through Friday night's victory over Minnesota, the rotation posted a 5.03 ERA, and the team went 16-15.

Now, the four injured players are making strides. Bergmann and Williams both threw all their pitches Saturday, and Acta said Williams -- who was 0-5 with a 7.20 ERA -- is due to report to Class AA Harrisburg next weekend. Bergmann (1-3, 2.76 ERA) will be checked on further Sunday, but if all goes well, a site for his first rehabilitation start will be determined early in the week.

Patterson is due to throw a simulated game at Class A Potomac on Sunday, and he could make a rehabilitation start later in the week. Shawn Hill has reported no pain in his right elbow, which he tweaked because he had an injured left shoulder, and he stayed in Washington so he could prepare for an eventual rehabilitation start as well.

"I just want to make sure I'm healthy," Bergmann said. "I don't like sitting around."

The team would then have to decide which of the effective fill-in starters to demote, and which to move to the bullpen. Micah Bowie, Mike Bacsik and Jason Simontacchi have combined to go 6-6 with a 4.71 ERA as part of the starting staff.

"It's going to give us depth," Acta said, "and we're going to have some decisions to make."

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