By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Two Washington Nationals catchers were talking yesterday about the steps they had taken. For Jesús Flores, recovering from a home plate collision in Tuesday's game, they were gingerly steps; a black walking boot covered his sprained left ankle. For Luke Montz, promoted to the big leagues after Flores's injury, they were major steps. Just a day earlier, he'd been home in Lafayette, La., readying to relax until February.
Flores's injury altered the trajectory not for one, but for two.
For Flores, the news was good. An MRI exam taken yesterday morning affirmed the ankle sprain diagnosis, and Flores believes he can return before the season ends. That's far better than what he expected when he took a headfirst charge from Philadelphia's Chase Utley, who was attempting to steal home. Flores's cleat caught the side of the plate during the collision. "All his weight went on my leg," Flores said.
Hours before the Nationals concluded their series against the Phillies yesterday, Flores ducked into the video room to watch a replay. "It looks bad," he said.
But was Utley's play dirty? Flores said no. "I wasn't prepared to be ready to make a collision," Flores said. "I was thinking he would go around me, but he didn't."
A day later, Flores could walk -- but slowly. For two or three days, he'll need to wear the boot. Montz, meanwhile, arrived yesterday in the Nationals' clubhouse for the first time; not invited to major league camp this year, he'd never met Manager Manny Acta. He will be in the lineup today when the Nationals play in Atlanta.
Monday night, Montz's season ended at Class AAA Columbus. He got in a car with his dad and drove 17 hours back home, stopping for just 40 minutes the whole ride. They encountered awful weather from Hurricane Gustav. When Montz got to Lafayette, he just wanted to hang out with some friends.
"Me and a buddy, we were going out to eat at Popeyes," Montz said.
Tuesday night, after he'd been home for 30 minutes, Montz received a phone call from Bobby Williams, the team's director of player development, and General Manager Jim Bowden: The Nationals needed him for September. He had a 6 a.m. flight waiting.
"Popeyes," Montz said, "never happened."Reshuffled Rotation
Because of a "mild left glut strain," Collin Balester will not start tomorrow night's game against Atlanta. Balester's next start will be pushed back to Tuesday against the Mets. As part of the rotation reshuffling, Shairon Martis, a September call-up, will start today for Washington. Jason Bergmann, who was originally supposed to start today, will instead start tomorrow.