Langerhans Seeks to Serve And Protect

By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 8, 2007

The message Washington Nationals hitting coach Lenny Harris has tried to impart to his batters as they wallow, with few exceptions, in a collective slump is simple: There is no such thing as looking for a certain pitch with two strikes in the count. "You've got to protect," he said. "You've got to put the ball in play."

Tops on the list of players trying to adhere to Harris's advice is Ryan Langerhans. He platoons with Nook Logan in center field and has been slotted in the leadoff spot on the days he cracks the starting lineup. Though he was hitting .171 with a .293 on-base percentage entering last night's game, Langerhans said he feels no added pressure batting leadoff.

"Hitting is one thing that is contagious," Langerhans said. "I'm doing a decent job of getting on base, but I'm just not doing it [at the beginning of games] as much."

Langerhans led off Friday night's game against the Milwaukee Brewers with a strikeout; Ronnie Belliard followed with a double. Langerhans lamented that, had he reached base, the Nationals would have had runners on second and third with no outs and been in good position to score.

Langerhans said he is working on being more aggressive with two strikes in the count, a mind-set Harris said he wants all his batters to take. "When you're hitting .170, .180, anything close to the strike zone, it's going to get called [a strike]," Harris said.

Harris said he thinks Langerhans is trying too hard to impress his coaches and others in the organization instead of relying on what got him to the big leagues in the first place. Langerhans "does well in batting practice," Harris said. "He just doesn't take that same intensity with him into the game."

Escobar Update

Manager Manny Acta said before last night's game that center fielder Alex Escobar played five problem-free innings Friday for Class AA Harrisburg and was scheduled to play seven innings last night. Escobar has been on the disabled list all season as he recovers from right shoulder surgery.

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