Acta Hopes Mock Steadies In 2nd Start

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 19, 2008

MINNEAPOLIS, June 18 -- For the second time this month, the Washington Nationals will recall pitcher Garrett Mock from Class AAA Columbus for a spot start. And this time, the team hopes the right-hander can pitch with greater control and less nervousness.

In need of a Saturday fill-in for Odalis Pérez, who is still trying to overcome shoulder tendinitis, the Nationals selected Mock for two primary reasons. He's already on the 40-man roster. And, more importantly, he was already scheduled to pitch Saturday for Columbus, meaning Mock won't have to adjust his throwing schedule.

"Well, this is going to be his second time around," Manager Manny Acta said. "He'll come over here, and he won't have that nervousness of the first start. Hopefully he feels more at home and can give us a solid outing."

Mock, acquired in a 2006 trade that sent Liván Hernández to Arizona, made his major league debut June 8 against San Francisco. His 4 1/3 innings that day resulted in seven hits, four earned runs and one mixed impression. In the fifth inning, Mock hit a wall, allowing a single and three walks to his final five batters.

Since returning to Columbus, where he has a 4-2 record and a 3.12 ERA, Mock has started once -- on Saturday, when he allowed three runs in 7 2/3 innings against Indianapolis.

The Nationals must decide on a corresponding roster move by Saturday.

Pérez, scheduled to come off the disabled list June 26, spent Wednesday throwing breaking pitches in the bullpen. He'll likely require a rehab start or some work in a simulated game before he returns for the Nationals.

Peña Is Benched Again

Wily Mo Peña, lifted Sunday for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, missed his second consecutive start Wednesday night -- a benching that corresponds with Acta's admission that "things are not working for him."

Batting .205 and slugging .265, Peña has none of the power he demonstrated late last season, when he bashed eight home runs in 133 at-bats with Washington. His only home run this season ended a 144 at-bat drought. Problem is, it also began a new drought, now at 58 at-bats.

The drop in productivity has left Nationals coaches puzzled. Hitting coach Lenny Harris said Wednesday that Peña is "just missing balls that he was hitting out of the ballpark [last year]. He feels like he's struggling so bad that he wants to hit home runs like he did last year. He's trying hard. He just needs to relax more."

Tickets, Not Jerseys

The Nationals have canceled a promotional youth jersey giveaway that had been planned for Sunday's game against Texas. Instead, the first 10,000 children 12 and younger will be given vouchers for two tickets to any upcoming home game this season.

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