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Relief Pitchers Can't Seem to Catch a Break

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 23, 2008

A dreadful week for Washington Nationals relievers continued yesterday when the bullpen -- given the opportunity for three innings of work -- still found a way to break most of the cardinal rules that license good pitching.

Steven Shell pitched a flawless ninth in his major league debut, but the previous two innings accounted for the damage. In the seventh and eighth innings of a 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers, Luis Ayala and Joel Hanrahan combined to allow four hits and three runs, first enlarging a deficit and then blowing a tie. Leadoff batters reached against Ayala in back-to-back innings. Hanrahan, who came on after Ayala had faced one batter in the eighth, moved his inherited runner, Brandon Boggs, to second via a stolen base and third via a wild pitch.

After two strikeouts, three Rangers batters in a row reached base. And a tie game had turned into a two-run deficit.

"I mean, we're just getting behind on a couple of guys," Hanrahan said. "We can't keep giving away free base runners."

In the bullpen's last 21 1/3 innings, dating back six games, its pitchers have yielded 22 runs.

"I don't think it's too much mechanical," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. "They're just not executing their pitches."

Orr's Eastern Promises?

The way Pete Orr sees it, several weeks from now, he'll be either playing in the big leagues or playing in China.

Recalled this weekend from AAA Columbus, Orr, a 29-year-old utility player, spent the first few months of this season in the minors despite three years of major league experience in Atlanta and a .389 batting average this spring training. When he arrived in the clubhouse yesterday, Orr admitted that his time here might be short -- especially with pitcher Odalis PĂ©rez eligible to leave the disabled list Thursday.

"I think -- I don't think the plan is for me to be here," said Orr, who was batting .267 with the Clippers. "I don't really know; that's not up to me. As far as I know, I think Odalis has got to come off the DL soon."

Hailing from Newmarket, Ontario, Orr is a member of Canada's national team, meaning he could represent his nation at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Team Canada determines its players' availability by mid-July, Orr said.

Orr, who played in the 2004 Olympics, said he'd only go to China if he was in the minors.

"Of course I'd rather be here for sure," he said. "That's my main goal; that's any baseball player's goal."

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