Nationals Notebook

One Month Later, Deal Looks Good for Nationals

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 31, 2009

MILWAUKEE, July 30 -- When Sean Burnett talks about the Pittsburgh Pirates -- the team that traded him exactly one month ago -- he uses the sort of description associated less with a baseball organization than a burning building.

"After what's going on," Burnett said, "I'm just glad to be out of there."

One month ago, with the Pirates dismantling, the Washington Nationals grabbed Burnett and Nyjer Morgan in exchange for Joel Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge. Even now, with the Friday 4 p.m. trade deadline hours away, the Nationals haven't made additional moves. And indeed, if the deadline passes, as expected, without a blockbuster, Washington's most prominent roster move will remain this four-player swap that came early in the trade season but triggered widespread change.

For Burnett and Morgan, the trade created a ripple of emotions: disappointment, excitement and, now, as Pittsburgh has decimated its roster, relief. Even on Thursday, Burnett was still getting text messages from former Pittsburgh teammates, all departing for new clubs. Burnett called it "a circus," and deadpanned, "I guess their Class A and Class AA teams will be really good."

Friday, Pittsburgh and Washington begin a four-game series at PNC Park -- the first encounter since the trade, and a fair benchmark for evaluating what has happened since. Burnett (12 innings, one earned run) has stabilized the Washington bullpen. Morgan has been a revelation -- a potential National League player of the month candidate who has hit .404 (40 for 99) with Washington and stolen 14 bases.

"Well, he's really, both offensively and defensively, he's really changed the ballclub," interim manager Jim Riggleman said.

When Morgan and Burnett talk about their performance in the last month, they share at least one similar sentiment.

"I just want to show these boys that they got a good trade," Morgan said.

Said Burnett, "We want to make [the Pirates] look stupid for making that trade."

The Pirates orchestrated the trade eyeing future gain more than immediate payoff. Hanrahan, who twice lost his job as Washington's closer this year, has steadied as a Pirate, allowing three earned runs in nine innings. The centerpiece of the deal, Milledge, has spent the last weeks with Class AAA Indianapolis but will be promoted to Pittsburgh for the start of this series. Just in time to play his former teammates.

Willingham a Late Scratch

Outfielder Josh Willingham was scratched from the lineup 45 minutes before Thursday's game against Milwaukee because of a stiff neck. He was available to pinch-hit, but did not appear in the game.

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