Nationals Notebook

Washington Nationals Set to Go With Wil Nieves, Josh Bard at Catcher

Nationals catcher Wil Nieves, who will share time behind the plate with Josh Bard, is batting .281 with nine RBI in 64 at-bats.
Nationals catcher Wil Nieves, who will share time behind the plate with Josh Bard, is batting .281 with nine RBI in 64 at-bats. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 4, 2009

With catcher Jesús Flores out for at least three months and possibly the remainder of the season, the Washington Nationals will go forward with the catching combination of Wil Nieves and Josh Bard for the foreseeable future. Acting general manager Mike Rizzo acknowledged Tuesday that neither would provide the production of Flores, but they at least present options the Nationals can "rely on."

"It's not a straight platoon, but we'll play them as we see fit," Manager Manny Acta said yesterday. "One week, they'll end up with one guy catching two guys and the other catching three. And the next week, the other way around, up until somebody runs away with us and proves they should be there every day. But right now, I just think they'll be splitting time and it'll be decided on a weekly basis."

Nieves is batting .281 with nine RBI in 64 at-bats. Bard is batting .220 with six RBI in 50 at-bats, although he went 3 for 4 with a home run on Tuesday.

The pitching staff's ERA is 5.12 when Flores catches. It is 5.56 when Bard catches and 6.56 when Nieves catches. The Nationals are 3-13 when Nieves starts, not including a suspended game. They are 1-9 when Bard starts -- including Tuesday's 10-6 win over the San Francisco Giants.

Bard started Tuesday because of his familiarity with Nationals starting pitcher Craig Stammen. Nieves was in the lineup last night. Although both are sympathetic to Flores's injury, they each appreciate the resulting opportunity.

"It's going to be good to get at-bats and just get an opportunity to show I can play," said Nieves, who faces arbitration this offseason. "They know I can play, but now I get a little more of an opportunity."

Guzmán Nurses Injury

Cristian Guzmán would not have started last night's game, which was postponed, because Acta did not want Guzmán, a switch hitter, to bat from the right side against Giants left-handed pitcher Randy Johnson. Guzmán has been nursing a sore thumb.

"It has been bothering him against left-handers, so we want to give him one less left-hander today and then he'll have a few right-handers in a row," Acta said. "By the time he plays [New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana] on Sunday, he'll have plenty of rest." . . .

Outfielder Josh Willingham would not have started last night because of a stomach virus. "That virus is affecting him," Acta said. "He's still very weak."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company