Call-ups May Give Team Needed Relief

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 1, 2008

Afforded the chance to expand their roster, the Washington Nationals decided, above all, to deepen their bullpen. And, by extension, broaden the lot of players trying out for relief pitching roles in 2009.

Washington's six Sept. 1 call-ups include three pitchers, all of whom had been with Class AAA Columbus, and none of whom had previously been on the team's 40-man roster. Yesterday, the Nationals purchased the contracts of Mike Hinckley, 25, Levale Speigner, 27, and Shairon Martis, 21, opening the door for that threesome to spend a month in the big leagues and audition for jobs in the one area where Washington is desperate for solutions.

"Mainly," Manager Manny Acta said about the September call-ups, "it's going to be about our bullpen."

The other three players called up for September -- utility man Kory Casto, center fielder Roger Bernadina and shortstop Alberto González -- have already spent time with the Nationals this season. And each already had a spot on the 40-man roster. In between three separate stints with Columbusthis year, Casto had 114 at-bats (and a .193 average) with the Nationals. Bernadina struggled during his 10-game cameo here, batting .125. González had merely been with Columbus on a rehab assignment, and hopes to resume the success he had with Washington in the four games before a left hamstring strain caused him to miss 25 games. In the games before the injury he went 6 for 13 and scored three runs.

Neither Hinckley nor Martis has appeared in the big leagues, and Speigner, a Rule 5 draft selection in 2006, hasn't pitched for the Nationals since last year, which makes his major league return all the more surprising. (He appeared in 19 major league games, started six and compiled an 8.78 ERA.)

Martis came through the minors as a starter -- he went 5-6 with a 3.64 ERA in 20 starts this year, split between Columbus and Class AA Harrisburg -- and Hinckley has only become a reliever this season. His promotion represents something of a resurrection; four years ago, he had been one of the organization's top prospects, and only this year -- long after he'd lost that reputation -- did he finally look the part, finishing the year in Columbus with a 3.16 ERA.

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