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Ayala Is Back, Speigner and Abreu Depart

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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 21, 2007

Luis Ayala smiled broadly as he grabbed his glove yesterday afternoon. The right-hander, once a stalwart of the Washington Nationals' bullpen, was active for a major league game for the first time since September 2005, finally back from ligament replacement surgery in his elbow that was performed in March 2006.

"I'm hungry to pitch," Ayala said. "I'm very happy to come back with my teammates."

Ayala, who posted a 1.29 ERA in five rehabilitation appearances with Class AAA Columbus, was one of two pitchers activated in a slight roster shakeup yesterday. Right-handers Levale Speigner and Winston Abreu both were designated for assignment, and right-hander Chris Schroder was recalled from Columbus, where he was 2-2 with a 1.64 ERA.

The moves followed a 15-1 thumping Tuesday by the Detroit Tigers. The toughest decision involved Speigner, a Rule 5 pickup who was thrust into the starting rotation because of injuries. He failed in that role, posting an 11.79 ERA. In his return to the bullpen Tuesday, he pitched two innings and gave up two runs.

Abreu went 0-1 with a 6.38 ERA in 19 appearances since joining the club in early May.

"We felt we gave them a fair opportunity," General Manager Jim Bowden said. "The results were what they were."

Because Speigner was taken in the Rule 5 draft, he first must clear waivers -- meaning the other 29 teams have a chance at claiming him, though they must keep him on their major league roster -- and then be offered back to his original club, the Minnesota Twins, for $25,000. Bowden said he had a conversation with the Twins about potentially making a deal for Speigner that would allow him to end up in the minors for Washington, but that nothing was close.

Ayala could be the most significant addition. In 214 major league appearances, he is 24-22 with a 2.75 ERA. But club officials warn that his performance is unlikely to be as consistent this summer as it will be after he gains strength in his arm.

"He's going to have ups and downs, like almost every guy does that first year back," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. "He'll feel real good, and he'll be going along, and you'll think, 'He's back.' And then all of a sudden he walks in and says, 'Uh-uh.' And he may have to be shut down for a week or two weeks."

Schroder, who went 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA for the Nationals last season, worked on his off-speed stuff with Columbus, particularly a slider. Still, he said, "just because you work on something else doesn't mean you get away from what you've always done." . . .

Right-hander Jerome Williams, who was on the disabled list with a sore shoulder, cleared waivers yesterday and was outrighted to Class AA Harrisburg. Williams, who went 0-5 with a 7.20 ERA with Washington, has 72 hours to decide if he'll accept the assignment.


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