O'Connor Out, Schroder Is Called Up

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 12, 2008

This year, Mike O'Connor has pitched with great success in Class AAA Columbus and had almost no success with the Washington Nationals. "I lost what I had going," he said, pointing to his call-up on April 24.

Now, O'Connor has also lost his job.

After yesterday's 5-4 loss to the Marlins, Washington optioned the left-hander back to Columbus and called up right-handed reliever Chris Schroder.

For the time being, Schroder solves at least one problem. In the middle of Washington's 16-game stretch without an off day, Schroder can prevent the bullpen from being worn too thin. In 10 games with Columbus, Schroder, 29, has gone 2-1 with three saves and a 1.26 ERA. Schroder also has 60 games of big league experience, including an earlier stint this season with the Nationals.

O'Connor's departure also creates an opening. The Nationals need a fifth starter and must decide before Thursday who will take O'Connor's place in the rotation. The 27-year-old, who surrendered nine runs in his outing Saturday night, had been scheduled to face Johan Santana at Shea Stadium.

"I would have liked to have a chance to get back out there," O'Connor said.

Washington has several options: The team could call up a starter from the minors -- perhaps Jason Bergmann. Or it could plant Matt Chico back in the rotation and hope that his performance follows more what he's done in long relief (one earned run, four innings pitched) than what he's done as a starter (0-5, 6.87 ERA). Before Saturday's game, General Manager Jim Bowden spoke encouragingly about Chico, describing his latest bullpen appearance as his top form all season.

No Relief

The failure of relievers to pull their team from the most prickly situations isn't the primary reason the Nationals have been losing, but it is the primary reason they've been losing large at times. This season, Washington pitchers have allowed 26 inherited runs, worst in the National League. Jesús Colome and Joel Hanrahan are among the primary culprits: The first has enabled seven of 10 inherited runners to score, the latter six of nine.

"It's one of the big numbers we look at," Hanrahan said. "You want to make the starters like you."

Pretty in Pink

For the fourth year, Major League Baseball used its Mother's Day games to dress all willing players in pink -- cleats, ribbons, bats, no matter. Ten Nationals players used pink bats yesterday. The team planned for the bats to be autographed and auctioned, to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer foundation.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company