Chants From Dugout Still Reverberating

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

NEW YORK, May 13 -- On Tuesday, the New York Mets designated pitcher Nelson Figueroa for assignment. But on the day Figueroa lost his standing as a big leaguer, everybody else at Shea Stadium talked about what made him lose his temper.

One night earlier, the Washington Nationals had shredded Figueroa, the Mets starter, for six runs in five innings. They'd also gotten under his skin. In the third inning, roughly a half-dozen Nationals, led by Elijah Dukes, started a series of animated chants that aimed to encourage the Washington hitters. When outfielder Lastings Milledge faced Figueroa, for instance, Dukes and those around him swayed back and forth yelling, "Let's go Milledge, let's Go!"

Figueroa equated the antics to something you'd see from "a bunch of softball girls."

On Tuesday, before Washington Manager Manny Acta defended those in his dugout, several in the Nationals clubhouse talked among themselves about whether the chanting was unsportsmanlike. Some found the cheering uncalled for -- "bush league," one said -- but most said it never became antagonistic. "We just felt like doing it yesterday just to have fun," Felipe López said. "Obviously the other pitcher, Figueroa, was concerned about that instead of being concerned about throwing strikes."

"Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, and we live in a world nowadays where everything you do and say, you're offending somebody," Acta said. "So I really have no reaction to it. They weren't yelling names or anything like that. They were cheering their own guys."

Bergmann to Get the Call

The Nationals have decided to use Jason Bergmann, currently in Class AAA Columbus, as their starter for tomorrow's series finale against the Mets. Bergmann had pitcher earlier this season in Washington, but his numbers here -- including an 11.68 ERA -- led to his demotion. Three recent strong starts for the Clippers, though, earned him another chance. . . .

First baseman Nick Johnson is day-to-day with a tendon strain in his right wrist. X-rays taken after Tuesday's game were negative.

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