Too Many Catchers, Not Enough Tools

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 19, 2008

ATLANTA, July 18 -- The catchers, all four of them, know there's a catch. Because chances are, one roster won't keep such an oversupply for long. By recalling Johnny Estrada on Friday, a roster move that followed Wily Mo Peña's trip to the disabled list, the Washington Nationals now have more catchers than they have outfielders. They also have a puzzle.

As Manager Manny Acta said: "We do have four catchers. And we have to make some decisions."

Estrada, who signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal this offseason, rejoined the club for the Atlanta series after spending more than three months recovering from a right elbow injury. As a result, the Nationals now have Jesús Flores (the primary starter), Wil Nieves (the primary backup) and two higher-paid veterans, Estrada and Paul Lo Duca, who must play to boost any trade value.

With the ability to play first base and left field, Lo Duca has been able to broaden his options. But Estrada has played only catcher since his freshman year of college, when he spent time at first base. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, on rehab assignment with Class AAA Columbus, might return to the majors at the conclusion of this series, increasing the urgency for Washington to solve its Sam's Club stockpile of catchers.

Asked what might happen, Estrada said: "I have no idea, man. . . . I'm planning on playing well, so hopefully everything will work itself out."

Conspiracy Theory

Left-hander Odalis Pérez said that he was issued a $1,500 fine for his remarks following a game July 8 in which he was called for two balks and ejected for arguing the calls. After that game, Pérez ripped umpire Angel Hernandez, calling him an "idiot." Pérez, who learned of the fine from his agent, said he planned to appeal.

Speaking Friday, Pérez reiterated his belief that Hernandez carries a vendetta. Pérez cited four times during his career in which Hernandez has issued balk calls against him.

"I don't know what his problem is," Pérez said. "I don't know, he called something that wasn't right, and my appeal is, he's got something personal against me."

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