Bowden Hopes Roster Shuffle Sends Message

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 24, 2008

Starting at 8 a.m. yesterday, word of the Washington Nationals' roster shake-up registered as a wake-up call. Still half asleep, Charlie Manning, a left-handed pitcher who had never played in the big leagues, looked at his cellphone. He had missed three calls from his manager at Class AAA Columbus, Tim Foli.

One callback later, Manning had the news. He learned the Nationals planned to promote him.

"That got me up real quick," Manning said.

Now, General Manager Jim Bowden hopes the sum of his moves yesterday have a similar effect. Washington promoted outfielder Ryan Langerhans to replace injured right fielder Austin Kearns and added both Manning and right-hander Brian Sanches to its bullpen. The Nationals sent Matt Chico and Chris Schroder to Columbus to make room for the two relievers.

Washington, with this roster makeover, chose stability over youth. All three newcomers are either 28 or 29. Sanches and Manning signed minor league contracts with Washington within three days of each other in December. Langerhans had 162 at-bats with the team last season.

Promoting one of the club's sterling Class AA outfield prospects, Mike Daniel or Justin Maxwell, would have been counterproductive, Bowden said. "We didn't want to rush the prospects and have them sit behind the young kids that are playing here," he said. "It would hurt two different development areas at one time."

Manning, if needed, can operate as a specialist to face left-handed hitters -- something the Nationals haven't had since optioning Ray King in late April. Sanches, meanwhile, had been serving as Columbus's closer. Last night, he pitched one inning, struck out the side and earned the victory.

With Columbus this season, Manning had a 1.95 ERA, Sanches a 0.98 ERA. "Look, both Sanches and Manning are getting the job done and throwing extremely well," Bowden said. "We're trying to improve the depth of our bullpen, so we're going to give these guys a shot."

Bowden suggested that the moves doubled as a message for his clubhouse.

"Certainly, I think these moves remind everyone when they look in the mirror and they look at their card and their performance to know, you don't necessarily get to stay here," he said.

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