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NATIONALS NOTEBOOK

López Puzzled Over Benching, Trade Rumors

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By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 28, 2008

Backed against a clubhouse wall, Felipe López shrugged when asked what he had heard regarding his standing with the Washington Nationals. He shrugged again when asked about his recent struggles and his absence from the starting lineup for a third consecutive game. He said he had no answers, and then he provided a few blunt observations.

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"I don't know; I don't know what's going on," López said regarding rumors about a possible trade to the Baltimore Orioles following this weekend's series. "I haven't even heard that since spring training. I heard the same thing there."

For the third time in as many games, Willie Harris got the start at second base. Manager Manny Acta would not go so far as to proclaim Harris his everyday starter, but he left plenty of room for the possibility in the near future.

"We're just trying to put out there the best team on an everyday basis," Acta said. "He's not our regular second baseman yet."

López's recent lack of playing time may be a byproduct of the four errors he has committed in the past two weeks. It also could be a result of his 1-for-13 performance at the plate since the Nationals returned last week from an extended road trip. For the season, López is batting .247 with 20 RBI and 25 runs.

While López said he would like to hear rationale from a member of the Nationals organization as to why he appears -- temporarily, at least -- to have lost his spot in the starting lineup, he was not surprised at the apparent lack of communication.

"Nobody communicates around here; everything's a mystery," López said. "Nothing's wrong with me. I'm fine. . . . I just came off an 11-game hitting streak while I was on the road, and now I'm on the bench. Take a guess. I don't know what happened. Because I made an error? I really don't understand it."

Asked to respond to López's comments, Acta said he didn't think he had any communication issues with López.

"I think I have talked to him enough from last year about everything we expect out of him," Acta said.


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