Nationals Notebook

Washington Nationals Bullpen Falters in Loss to New York Mets

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

VIERA, Fla., March 10 -- The Washington Nationals took a five-run lead into the seventh inning of Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the New York Mets, and their gravest concern immediately came into focus. The bullpen allowed the Mets five runs in the seventh and ninth, and the game ended in a 5-5 tie.

In part because there are so many questions in their relief corps, the Nationals have at least some interest in veteran right-hander Duaner Sanchez, who was released by the Mets on Tuesday, two sources said. Though one source characterized Washington's interest as "mild," Sanchez could provide some experience and stability to an area that lacks both.

"It's our biggest challenge here as a weakness," Manager Manny Acta said.

Sanchez made 66 appearances for the Mets in 2008, posting a 4.32 ERA, after missing all of 2007 following injuries suffered in a car accident. Despite that, the Mets were concerned about Sanchez's lack of velocity.

"He's been getting better," Mets General Manager Omar Minaya told New York reporters. "But I didn't think Duaner could get to where we need him to be."

O'Connor, Detwiler Cut

The Nationals sent 10 players to the minors Tuesday, including 2007 first-round pick Ross Detwiler and Mike O'Connor, putting their roster at 58.

O'Connor, a left-hander who made 26 appearances for Washington in 2006 and 2008, likely will surface in major league camp again this spring, working out of the bullpen, but Manager Manny Acta said the club needed space to get more innings for their starters.

Detwiler, who turned 23 last week, is a more curious case. Taken with the sixth pick in the '07 draft, Nationals officials hoped to have the left-hander in the majors by 2009 at the latest. But he went just 8-8 with a 4.86 ERA at Class A Potomac last year and was optioned to Class AA Harrisburg to begin 2009.

"The stuff is there, and it's going to be there," acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. "We knew when we drafted him he wasn't a finished product. He was a stuff guy, and we had to refine his delivery."

Also among those reassigned to minor league camp were 2006 first-rounder Chris Marrero, a first baseman, and lefty Justin Jones. . . .

Outfielder Elijah Dukes (3 for 4) and first baseman Brad Eldred each homered in Tuesday's game against the Mets. Eldred's was his second in two days.

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