King Demoted; O'Connor Is Called Up

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.

"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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