Nationals Notebook

Nationals Notebook: Acta Reminds Team It Is Better Than Record

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 22, 2009

Yesterday, some 3 1/2 hours before the first pitch, Manny Acta called his team together and closed the clubhouse doors. Generally, the Washington Nationals' third-year manager holds little regard for such formalities: "You can speak and talk as much as you want," Acta said, "and we still need to hold the leads and need to catch the ball."

But here, Acta addressed a full clubhouse -- the group responsible for the highest ERA, lowest fielding percentage, smallest win total and longest losing streak in baseball. If nothing else, he wanted to remind the Nationals not to lose sight of their ability, despite an 11-28 record entering last night. During the half-hour meeting, Acta, according to several players, reminded the team that everyone shares culpability. He also pointed out that just a week ago, the Nationals were coming off a 4-4 West Coast road trip.

"I just wanted to make sure they knew that just a week ago we were a better team than what we are right now, and that the game is not going to be suspended today," Acta said. "We have to play it, and everything can change today. It was more a group thing to pump up the guys that are down right now in our bullpen and stuff, just to let them know it's a long season and they have plenty of time to get it going."

Acta did not lose his temper. No yelling, no screaming.

"A few people feel that that works, but it doesn't," Acta said. "Just try that at home with your own kids. I mean, that doesn't work. You don't need to yell and scream to get your point across to people. I mean, it's so silly, because how many championships did Joe Torre win in New York? Was he yelling and screaming and ripping bases and throwing them all over the place? Did the yelling and screaming that Lou [Piniella] does, did it work in Tampa? It didn't, right? I am who am I am and I'm not going to change."

"He doesn't change anything in here," Ryan Zimmerman said. "He's the same person in here as he is in front of you guys."

One player, Ron Villone, spoke up as well. Though the reliever has been with the Nationals for just two weeks, he is a veteran of 15 big league seasons. Paraphrasing his message, Villone said: "Today is a new day; it's a chance to go up. That's the only attitude to take, and whether I express it or somebody else expresses it, that is what needs to be done."

First Step Toward Return

Catcher Jesús Flores, on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder contusion, will take the first step toward his return at the end of the weekend, when he heads to Washington's spring training facility in Viera, Fla. Flores, who has not played since May 9, could resume swinging by Monday.

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