By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 18, 2009
PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 17 -- Just before 8 p.m. Thursday, as catcher Wil Nieves limped back to the dugout, slowed by a hamstring injury, the Washington Nationals had a problem -- and it caused General Manager Mike Rizzo to pull out his cellphone. At that moment, the Nationals had three catchers on their 40-man roster, and even the healthiest -- Josh Bard -- was hobbled because of a groin injury. Nieves? He'd just pulled his left hamstring sprinting down the first base line. Jesús Flores? He'd undergone labrum surgery earlier this week.
To make matters worse, catcher is Washington's thinnest position at the Class AAA and Class AA levels. The Nationals needed a temporary backup catcher, and, according to Rizzo, "we didn't have any in-house candidates."
Within the hour, Rizzo had a solution. In exchange for cash considerations, the Nationals acquired 37-year-old catcher Jamie Burke from the Seattle Mariners. To make room for Burke on the 40-man roster, Washington placed Flores on the 60-day disabled list. Burke will meet the Nationals on Friday at Citi Field in New York.
"With Wil a little gimpy -- we don't know how long it will be; probably a couple days -- and with Bardo a little gimpy, we needed another guy," Rizzo explained. "Jamie Burke is a guy that [interim manager] Jim [Riggleman] knows well. He's a complementary backup guy."
Burke, a career .282 hitter in the big leagues, had just finished up a season with Class AAA Tacoma. In 2008, Riggleman managed Burke briefly at the big league level.
As Burke was on his way east, Nieves was walking around the postgame Washington clubhouse, optimistic that he'd miss only a few games. The injury occurred in the top of the third, as Nieves, who has been splitting playing time with Bard, ran down the first base line.
"I think I just pulled it a little bit," Nieves said. "Right now it just feels tight because put so much ice on it, so we've got to wait until [Friday] to see how it feels. But I can walk normal."