Late Struggles Have Lopez Keeping Quiet

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 10, 2007

ATLANTA, Sept. 9 -- Washington Nationals infielder Felipe Lopez got Sunday's game against the Atlanta Braves off -- save for a late appearance to help the Nationals protect a lead. It was one in a series of breaks Manager Manny Acta intends to give the veteran over the final three weeks.

Lopez's thoughts on it? He's keeping them to himself. He again declined an opportunity to discuss his season with the media Sunday. Since addressing some defensive shakiness Aug. 29 in Los Angeles, Lopez has not spoken publicly. He told team officials he would not speak with reporters for the rest of the season, though he altered that slightly Sunday.

"I'll talk to you the last day," Lopez said. He did not offer a reason for his boycott.

Acta and General Manager Jim Bowden have publicly praised Lopez in recent weeks for his willingness to move from shortstop to second base in the offseason -- only to toggle back and forth between the positions because of a pair of injuries to shortstop Cristian Guzman.

"He came in with a great attitude of moving to second base, started to make that adjustment, then was moved back to short," Bowden said last week. "Never complained."

But there have been questions about Lopez's attitude during a season-long slump. Acta benched him once for failing to run out a groundball, and he could have done so on several other occasions. Lopez entered this year as a .262 career hitter with a .333 on-base percentage, numbers that have dropped this season (.244 average, .305 OBP).

Bergmann Changes Up Delivery

In his last start, right-hander Jason Bergmann found an exceptionally hard slider but didn't have his curveball. The result: seven innings in which he allowed just one run in a win over Florida. Sunday in Atlanta, Bergmann found the curveball and used it in place of the slider in a 7-4 victory over Atlanta -- an indication that his repertoire is diverse and versatile.

"That's pitching -- to be able to throw more than one pitch on a certain day," Bergmann said.

Bergmann pitched six innings and allowed three runs, winning consecutive starts for the first time in his career. He is 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA since returning from a hamstring injury late last month. . . . Catcher Brian Schneider, who normally would have played against right-hander Lance Cormier, sat out for the second straight game because of flu-like symptoms. Schneider, who was vomiting Friday night, said after the game he felt much better and expected to be ready for the upcoming series in Florida. . . . Closer Chad Cordero recorded a 1-2-3 save against the Braves, against whom he has a spotty history. The last time that happened? "2004?" Cordero said. Actually, June 7, 2006 -- eight appearances earlier.

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