Acta Puts On A Shift in The Outfield

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 21, 2007

HOUSTON, Aug. 20 -- On Sunday afternoon at RFK Stadium, Austin Kearns made his first start of the year in center field. On Monday night in Houston -- with Tal's Hill looming in center field at Minute Maid Park -- Ryan Church made his first start there since May 5.

"We need some offense," Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta said, "and we're trying to put out there the guys who can help us score some more runs in this type of ballpark."

The shifting in the Nationals' outfield is a result of the arrival of Wily Mo Peña, acquired in a trade with Boston on Friday. Acta dispelled the notion that, with Peña in the lineup, Kearns will move to center every day. Acta said he put Kearns there Sunday because he felt Kearns could better patrol the deep alleys and spacious outfield at RFK. With the alleys much shorter here, he moved Church back to center.

As for his overall philosophy with the outfield, Acta said he would determine lineups by feel, not by using a straight platoon of Church and Peña in left or Church and Nook Logan in center.

"I'm going to rotate them," Acta said. "I think right now we need to give Wily the most opportunity because we need to find out about him. We've already seen the other guys."

Kearns, who has played 60 games in center in his career -- including 40 in 2003 -- said he was fine with whatever Acta decided.

"I'll play out there," he said. "It's a little different, but I'm comfortable with it."

Payment for Peña

This much is done: The Nationals will eventually send first baseman Chris Carter, who's currently in the Arizona Diamondbacks' farm system, to Boston as the player to be named in the deal that brought Peña to Washington. That leaves the question of who will go from Washington to Arizona to make that transaction possible.

Sources said Monday that the player is unlikely to be on the Nationals' major league roster. The Diamondbacks, who lead the National League West, are looking for bullpen help. One possibility: Winston Abreu, who has 76 strikeouts and 19 walks in 46 1/3 innings for Class AAA Columbus.

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