NATIONALS NOTEBOOK

Harris, Stammen Benefit From Nationals' Extra Deliberation

Josh Willingham and the Nationals look to make it two in a row. The game ended too late for this edition, but for coverage, go to www.washingtonpost.com.
Josh Willingham and the Nationals look to make it two in a row. The game ended too late for this edition, but for coverage, go to www.washingtonpost.com. (By Karl Merton Ferron -- Baltimore Sun)
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By Amy Shipley and Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writers and Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MIAMI, June 29 -- A lot of thinking and rethinking went into a pair of big moves for the Washington Nationals this past weekend. Manager Manny Acta said he considered moving utility infielder Willie Harris into the leadoff spot for about a week before finally penciling in the lineup change Sunday, prodded by Harris's production at the plate and a nagging sense that something had to be done to jolt a sluggish lineup.

"Willie has really helped us make that decision," Acta said Monday before the Nationals' game against the Florida Marlins at Land Shark Stadium.

The same sort of extended contemplation caused the Nationals to move Craig Stammen from the starting rotation to the bullpen and back in a 24-hour period, after realizing "we weren't completely sold on that . . . idea," Acta said.

Indeed, Washington dumped the idea after starter Shairon Martis took the loss Saturday night against the Baltimore Orioles, continuing his backslide from a 5-0 start. As Scott Olsen prepared for Monday's return to the rotation from the disabled list, Martis, 22, received a ticket to Class AAA Syracuse and Stammen got his starting slot right back.

"It's not as much about Stammen as it's about Martis going back down and getting back to what got him here," Acta said. "We told him he's going to be here soon if he goes down and does what he has to do. . . . He's going to be part of the rotation for years to come."

Acta might be less sold on the Harris experiment, noting before the Nationals' game Monday that "it worked in one game, guys. Let's wait and see."

It worked beautifully, with Harris going 3 for 4 with a home run and a stolen base in the 5-3 victory Sunday.

"It shouldn't be a difference; my game shouldn't change," Harris said. But "I consider myself a leadoff guy in my heart. I'm the type of guy that enjoys creating havoc. I like to be in the middle of a mess. . . . I treat the first at-bat of the game as if it's not my at-bat, it's for my teammates."

Second-Round Pick Signs

The Nationals came to terms with their second-round pick in the 2009 amateur draft, Jeff Kobernus, a second baseman from the University of California. A line-drive hitter who batted .341 as a junior, Kobernus has drawn comparisons from Washington's front office to Casey Blake of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

By signing Kobernus, who was selected 50th, the Nationals have signed five of their 11 picks from the first 10 rounds, including three of the top four.

Kobernus agreed to a signing bonus of $705,000, in line with Major League Baseball's slotting guidelines. Last year, the recommended bonus for the No. 50 pick was roughly $780,000, but in conjunction with this year's economic decline, baseball has called for a 10 percent cut.


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