By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The weakest component of baseball's weakest team will now go forward without its strongest player.
In a move that further strains the team's makeshift bullpen, the Washington Nationals placed left-hander Joe Beimel on the disabled list with a strained left hip flexor yesterday. Beimel suffered the injury on a slippery field in the eighth inning of the Nationals' 3-2 win over Atlanta on Monday.
That latest injury touched off a string of consequences: It prompted the Nationals to promote right-hander Saúl Rivera from Class AAA Syracuse only 44 hours after his demotion. It opened Beimel's eighth-inning role for right-handers Garrett Mock and Kip Wells. And it spurred Manager Manny Acta to wonder whether his team is hexed.
"It's a very bizarre situation," Acta said. "I'm not a believer -- I don't believe in negative stuff, but I was wondering if somebody buried that Red Cross jersey here before they built this stadium because it's kind of, I don't know, weird."
Since April 2, five players from the team's 25-man roster have been placed on the disabled list. The transactions have created an increasingly curious search for replacements. On Sunday night, the Nationals decided that Rivera -- who "was throwing one first-pitch strike for every eight hitters," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said -- needed to reboot his game in the minors. But Rivera, given 72 hours to report to the minors, never even left Washington.
In a roundabout way, that partly rationalized his return. Acting general manager Mike Rizzo didn't want his bullpen, even for a night, to be short-handed. Rivera, no matter his form, would be immediately available. Now, the Nationals are hoping that Rivera will regain his prior effectiveness; despite this year's struggles, he has a 3.97 career ERA.
"He's been a little bit open with his front side and I've talked to him about that," St. Claire said. "But I think it's more of a mental thing with him, where he's trying to be too fine."
When Rivera returned to the clubhouse yesterday, he found that his locker had jumped from the left side of the room to the right. Rivera compared his last two days to a "cold shower."
Without Beimel, the Nationals have just one left-hander in the bullpen. The team hopes Beimel can return as soon as he is eligible to come off the DL.Be Back Soon
One week from now, during the series against Philadelphia, the Nationals expect Willie Harris (left oblique) and Cristian Guzmán (left hamstring) to return from the disabled list. Harris headed to Class AAA Syracuse yesterday to begin a rehab assignment. Guzmán will go to Viera, Fla., today to rehab in extended spring training.