By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
ATLANTA, June 26 -- Robert Fick returned to the Washington Nationals' clubhouse Tuesday having lost his mother but, he hopes, having regained his focus. The veteran utility man, who left the team June 18 because his mother, Gloria, had finally lost a long battle with lung cancer, was to be activated after Tuesday night's game with the Atlanta Braves.
Fick, who took batting practice and threw for the first time since he was placed on the bereavement list June 19, said there was really no way to sum up his week away.
"Burying your mom has got to be one of the tougher things to ever do," he said. "I don't know. I feel a sense of relief in the fact that she's not suffering anymore."
Fick was effusive in his praise for the Nationals' organization and his teammates. The club sent both flowers and a plant to the funeral. In particular, Fick said he appreciated the support of General Manager Jim Bowden, who allowed Fick to travel home to California on off days to visit his mother.
"Through the past couple of years, having to go home, everything that's gone on, I really can't say enough," Fick said. "He helped me out a lot."
Manager Manny Acta sat down with Fick before Tuesday's game and said he noticed a difference in his player. "It's a big weight off his shoulders," Acta said.
Acta, though, won't insert Fick in the lineup Wednesday, when Braves right-hander John Smoltz will pitch. Fick is hitting just .217, though he had started to get hot before leaving the team. Acta said that with veteran Ronnie Belliard thrust into the lineup because of a season-ending thumb injury to shortstop Cristian Guzman, it's essential that Fick becomes a reliable pinch hitter.
Watson Sent Down
To make room for Fick, the Nationals optioned outfielder Brandon Watson back to Class AAA Columbus after Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the Braves. Watson was the only Washington outfielder with options remaining, meaning other teams couldn't claim him if the Nationals sent him out.
"It is what it is," Watson said. "I'm obviously not excited about it."