Schneider Is Struggling At the Plate

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 23, 2007

HOUSTON, Aug. 22 -- Brian Schneider has heard the praise, from his manager and others, that the Washington Nationals' disheveled pitching staff has held together in part because he has coaxed them through rough times and helped several of them overcome inexperience.

But one thing nags at Schneider, and it is the number next to his name each time he comes to bat. After going 0 for 2 with two walks in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros, he is hitting a meager .231.

"Obviously, I think I can do better," Schneider said. "It's frustrating. I feel like I've hit the ball harder than that, and I feel like my average could be a lot higher than what it is. But it is what it is. I want to do much better."

Schneider's average has been above .250 for one day this season, June 26. After driving in 37 runs in his first 85 games, he has just four RBI in his last 18. This for a player who entered the year with a .256 career average and whom Manager Manny Acta expected to hit .270 with 70 RBI.

"Sometimes he takes it hard," Acta said, "but we value his defense more than his offense."

Schneider understands that. "But I want to be a two-way player," he said.

There is the issue of Schneider's mortality, too. At 30, he knows he can no longer classify himself as a "young" player. "That's hard to admit," he said. "But catching, it wears on you."

He has two years and $9.8 million remaining on his contract, and the Nationals like the promise shown by 22-year-old rookie Jesus Flores, who is hitting .230 as Schneider's backup. The organization will decide over the winter whether Flores, a Rule 5 draft pick, needs a year playing every day in the minors.

"I want to be an everyday guy for the next two years," Schneider said. "But I want to put up good numbers doing it."

Langerhans Stays With Nats

Outfielder Ryan Langerhans, designated for assignment on Sunday, cleared waivers and will report to Class AAA Columbus, meaning he stays with the organization. Acta said there's a good chance Langerhans will be called back up when rosters expand Sept. 1.

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