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NATIONALS NOTEBOOK

After Storm, Acta Can't Duck Bullpen

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By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 3, 2008

MIAMI, July 2 -- Because they had pitched too often of late, and because they hadn't pitched well often enough, Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta didn't want to use the members of his bullpen Wednesday afternoon. Those arms needed a rest. And everybody else needed a rest from watching them.

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But when a massive rainstorm interrupted the seventh inning, Acta had no choice. When play resumed, he inserted left-hander Charlie Manning to protect a 2-1 lead. By Manning's third pitch, Florida owned the lead. Manning allowed a two-run home run to Alfredo Amézaga, who entered the game with one home run in 152 at-bats and a .160 average against lefties.

"I missed my spot," said Manning (0-2).

Acta then had to dig even deeper into his bullpen. For the fifth time in six games, he used Joel Hanrahan. For the third time in four games, he used Saúl Rivera.

"These guys," Acta said of his relievers, "they're struggling."

Scouting Probe

The nearly unregulated system for finding and securing talent in Latin America has attracted the attention of federal investigators, who are looking into the scouting practices of an unknown number of teams, including the Nationals.

Wednesday marked the opening of the period in which teams can sign international players. But now, investigators are scrutinizing the methods used to attract talent, where protocol often involves middle men and seven-figure bonuses.

In May, the Chicago White Sox fired player personnel director David Wilder and two others after, first, an internal investigation and, then, baseball's own look into the matter. After that, the case was turned over to federal authorities, where its scope widened. . . .

Matt Chico, who began the season in Washington's starting rotation, will have reconstructive left elbow surgery performed Thursday by James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. Chico's elbow injury was diagnosed after he had been demoted to Class AAA Columbus on May 23 with an 0-6 record and 6.19 ERA.


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