Nationals President Stan Kasten Says His Support of Manny Acta Hasn't Wavered

By Chico Harlan and Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 26, 2009; 12:02 AM

During an afternoon speaking engagement yesterday at the National Press Club, Washington Nationals President Stan Kasten gave his firmest support yet of Manny Acta, expressing hope that he can "serve as long-term manager here."

Acta's job security has swung wildly in the last week, growing tenuous amid news media reports of an impending firing, then strengthening during last week's four-game winning streak. Only yesterday, though, did Kasten elaborate on feelings about the third-year skipper.

"In Manny's case, I happen to be a big fan of his," Kasten said. "I think he has the demeanor to be a long-term solution as a manager. He has the demeanor of a Bobby Cox and others who have been successful. I had this great talk around the batting cage last night with Terry Francona, the young, possibly genius manager of the Boston Red Sox. And I said, 'Terry, I remember when you were a dummy as manager of the Phillies.' And he says, 'Stan, I promise you, I'm still a dummy, I just have better players.' It's so true.

"And I have always, from the beginning, supported Manny. I can't predict whether it will work here, but I think he will. I think he's going to serve as a long-term manager here. That's my hope."

Through a team spokesman, Acta declined to comment on Kasten's statement before last night's game against the Boston Red Sox.

Broken Bat Safety

Elijah Dukes's broken bat single in the Nationals' 6-4 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday highlighted the safety concerns associated with maple bats, which have a tendency to fracture into large shards. Maple bats are three times more likely to shatter than ash bats, according to a study conducted by management and union officials last December.

"I'm not smart enough to figure out what needs to be done," Acta said. "Bats have been breaking for a lot for years. Obviously over the last few years, bats have been breaking this way, and it's dangerous."

In the second inning on Wednesday, Dukes, who uses a maple bat, knocked a skipping grounder to shortstop Nick Green. Dukes's bat sheared in two on the hit, creating a large, pointy shard that floated toward the outfield. Green kept his focus on the ball for as long as possible, but needed to fend off the knife-like piece of lumber with his right forearm as it headed in his direction. Dukes reached with a single, and the broken bat speared the turf like a javelin.

There have been a number of notable incidents involving broken bats in recent years, including an umpire who sustained a concussion when he was hit on the head with a broken bat in April.

Olsen's Status Update

Although he declined to offer specifics, Acta said a decision would be coming soon regarding the status of pitcher Scott Olsen, who had a solid outing for Class AAA Syracuse on Wednesday.

Olsen allowed two runs and eight hits with five strikeouts over six innings. Olsen is expected to bump one of Washington's young starters from the rotation when he returns from shoulder tendinitis that has kept him on the disabled list since May 18.

Asked whether Olsen needed another rehabilitation start, Acta skirted the question and said, "We're going to make a decision pretty quick."

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