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NATIONALS NOTEBOOK

King Demoted; O'Connor Is Called Up

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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 25, 2008

The Washington Nationals yesterday optioned veteran left-hander Ray King to Class AAA Columbus, a move club officials said was made both to promote left-hander Mike O'Connor and to address the team's need for pitchers who can throw multiple innings out of the bullpen.

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"We're very pleased with how he's throwing," General Manager Jim Bowden said of O'Connor, who has returned from elbow surgery at the end of 2006 to go 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA in four starts at Columbus. "His velocity has come back from the surgery of a couple years ago. Our bullpen is such that right now, the way we are, we don't have a lot of innings in the bullpen, which has been a problem. If a pitcher gets knocked out early in the game, we don't really have a long guy to come eat those innings."

O'Connor arrived in time for last night's 10-5 victory over the New York Mets, and even pitched a scoreless sixth inning, picking up the win when the Nationals scored four in the bottom half of that frame.

The move stunned King, who had a 5.68 ERA in 12 appearances, but had held left-handed hitters to a .235 average. His last appearance came Wednesday night, when he allowed two infield hits and a double to opposing pitcher Johan Santana in 2/3 of an inning.

"I look at it like this: There's guys out there with numbers that are worse than mine," King said. "Last night I gave up two squibblers and I get banged for two runs. Today I'm out of a job."

King, 34, has 72 hours to report to Columbus. He said he might ask Bowden for a trade that might get him a major league job, and Bowden said he was open to making moves that would improve the Nationals.

"I'll say it like this: I don't want to go to Triple A," King said. "I'm not saying I won't."

Hill Struggles a Bit

Right-hander Shawn Hill lasted only five innings last night in getting a no-decision, allowing three runs, two of them earned. His problem: an inability to finish innings. Luis Castillo, opposing pitcher Oliver PĂ©rez and Ryan Church all had two-out, RBI singles off Hill.


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