Watson Takes Winding Road Back to Washington

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 22, 2007

When Brandon Watson was named the Washington Nationals' Opening Day center fielder in the spring of 2006, he put pressure on himself to succeed. But when the Nationals got off to a 2-8 start, and Watson was hitting just .179, the experiment ended, and Watson didn't return to the Nationals the rest of the year.

On Wednesday, he returned to RFK Stadium for the first time since, again as the Nationals' center fielder. In the interim, he had been claimed off waivers by Cincinnati, signed as a minor league free agent with Detroit, then released by the Tigers this spring. On Opening Day this year, he was out of baseball.

"It just makes you realize that no matter who you are and what you've done in the past, it doesn't matter," Watson said. "It's all about today and moving on to the future. It was a surprise, but it happens, and they just didn't have room for me."

Watson signed with the Nationals again on April 9 and then embarked on a 43-game hitting streak for Class AAA Columbus, an International League record. He was called up Wednesday when Robert Fick went on bereavement leave after the death of his mother. Because Fick is allowed to miss a maximum of seven games, Watson could be the center fielder for now only.

"We're going to give him a chance," Manager Manny Acta said.

Watson went 0 for 3 and was lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning of Wednesday's 8-4 loss to the Tigers, but he will be out in center again tonight, when the Nationals open a three-game series against Cleveland. He arrived back in Washington with a retooled batting stance that features a more pronounced crouch. He also said he's a better player than he was when he last appeared for the Nationals.

"I think it's just time," he said. "Sometimes, I can be a player that might look bad or might not be in a groove. But pretty much when I get going and stuff starts clicking, then everything looks good."

Headed to the Minors

Right-handers Jerome Williams and Winston Abreu have both cleared waivers and accepted their assignments to the minor leagues. Williams, 0-5 with a 7.20 ERA for the Nationals before going on the disabled list in May, will pitch for Class AA Harrisburg. Abreu, demoted Wednesday after posting a 6.38 ERA for Washington, will pitch for Columbus.

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