Acta's Away, But Office Is Occupied

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 17, 2008

NEW YORK, April 16 -- While the Washington Nationals prepare for Thursday night's series finale against the New York Mets, Manny Acta's office at Nationals Park will have a visitor. Pope Benedict XVI will use Acta's office to dress and prepare for the morning Mass, which some 46,000 people are expected to attend.

"It's kind of special," said Acta, who does not count himself a member of any religion. "How many times can you put together catching the president first, and then having the pope use your office? Not many people can say that."

Acta, who caught President Bush's ceremonial first pitch on Opening Night, has a picture of that moment that is in the process of being signed. He said he did not leave the pope a note -- or anything -- asking for a blessing of his new digs.

"I'm sure everything in the room will be in order," Acta said. "Just having him there is enough."

Roster Movement

Catcher Paul Lo Duca's sore right hand, injured when he was hit by a pitch Sunday, isn't improving rapidly, and the club ordered a bone scan even though X-rays were negative. But because Lo Duca is having trouble gripping a bat -- "If I could hit with two fingers, I'd be fine," he said -- the Nationals called up catcher Wil Nieves from Class AAA Columbus. To make room on the roster, they optioned reliever Chris Schroder to Columbus.

Nieves, a defense-first catcher who has hit .161 in 63 major league games, will back up Johnny Estrada, who will serve as the starter. The club couldn't call up Jesús Flores, who was optioned to Columbus on Sunday, because a player must spend at least 10 days in the minors before being recalled.

Schroder pitched in two games, giving up one run in 2 2/3 innings. "It's understandable," he said, because he's the only reliever with options remaining. . . .

John Lannan grew up in Long Beach, N.Y., about 45 minutes from Shea Stadium. Thursday night, he'll make his first appearance here. "It's cool," Lannan said. "It's probably more exciting for my family."

Lannan, 23, remembers getting into Shea for a Pepsi can and sitting in the bleachers. Thursday, though, he must put behind his last outing in which he gave up six runs in four innings against Atlanta.

"I've got to get my head straight," he said. "I've stopped thinking about it."

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