Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 22, 2005; 2:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Barry Svrluga talks baseball in the nation's capital -- every Wednesday.

The transcript follows .


Barry Svrluga: Greetings, folks, from PNC Park, a beautiful venue by the Allegheny River here in the Steel City. Nice day for a ballgame. Unfortunately for the Nationals, things didn't get off to a good start. Yes, Jose Guillen already has two homers, both solo shots. But John Patterson (who got over his back problem in time to pitch) gave all that back and more, allowing homers to Jason Bay, Rob Mackowiak and Matt Lawton in the first two innings. And these were absolute SHOTS. So Washington will have to come from behind to win this one.

Anyway, lots of questions, it looks like. I'll try to get to as many as I can while keeping an eye on the game. Forgive me, in advance, if the pace is a little slower than usual.

Let's go.


Barry Svrluga: Wait. I spoke too soon. Nationals tie it up in the top of the fifth in a crazy first-and-third rundown play, in which Jose Guillen did a good job getting caught up between first and second, and Jamey Carroll scored. Nationals 4, Pirates 4, bottom five.


Cathedral: Barry-awhile back in one of your chats, you offered support to my campaign. That is, changing the name of "businessman special" games to another, more inclusive adjective. Since then, I've not gotten very far-but I have learned that the Phillies use a slightly more broad name-"business person's special." I know you are wise, and you have connections. Is this a fool's errand, or is there someone I can talk to?

Barry Svrluga: Here in Pittsburgh, they, too, have labeled it a "Business Person's Special." Not a lot of business going down in Pittsburgh today, it seems.


Arlington, Va.: knowing that Bowden will certainly pull off some deals by the trade deadline, and knowing that the Nats need a big bat, and a pitcher, who would you think to be a potential candidate for each position? I am not too aware of the Nats farm system, but they have certainly produced some gems over the years. Would Bowden most likely trade prospects for some vets?

Barry Svrluga: This is the constant dilemma that Bowden faces. The farm system is bereft of talent. What few prospects it does have Bowden would like to keep. So any trade would likely have to come from the major league roster. Zach Day remains a candidate to be traded, but if Drese pitches like he did last night (three innings, five runs), they might need Day to come back into the rotation. The candidates for a bat are well-known: Colorado's Preston Wilson, Tampa's Aubrey Huff, Cincinnati's Wily Mo Pena, Florida's Juan Encarnacion, among others. But in talking to Bowden yesterday, he said, "If that bat's already here, that's great. If that bat's Ryan Church, that's great. If it's Marlon Byrd, that's great. If it's a combination of the two, that's great." Church has an RBI double today, and entered the game hitting .325.

We'll see. The next month won't be quiet.


Rosslyn, Va.: How badly did the Pirates just butcher that rundown?

Barry Svrluga: Uh, badly. But both Nationals base runners did a good job of forcing the issue once they were picked off. The ball got to Pirates first baseman Daryle Ward, who throws left handed. Once that happened, Carroll broke toward the plate because he knew it would be hard for Ward to pivot and throw in time to get him. This team has had its share of base running gaffes. They used good base running to get a run there.


The GUZ!: I don't want to mention anything, but I'll bet some of those "bench Guzman" folks might be slightly more tight-lipped this week! Svrluga is ALWAYS right!!

Barry Svrluga: Thank you. You are the first person to recognize what seems obvious to me, that I am always right.

Guzman: He really had hit the ball better for about a week, raising his average to .212 (don't laugh), and showing the ability to drive the ball as well. But last night, Robinson granted him the right to hit with runners on first and second and no outs, rather than bunting, and he grounded into a double play en route to going 0 for 4, and he has a ground out and a strikeout in his first two at-bats today.

But Robinson is well aware that if Guzman can just do what he has normally done over his six-year career -- which is hit .266 -- the bottom of the order gets some much-needed life.


Spivey fan in McLean: When Vidro comes back, do you think Spivey will take a significant amount of playing time from Guzman? I noticed the switch-hitting Guzman has about the same stats vs. lefties and righties over the last 4 years (mediocre), while the right-handed Spivey has a very large platoon differential (.305 with a .568 slugging vs. lefties compared to .270 with a .401 slugging vs. righties from 2002-2005). Could we see a platoon?

Barry Svrluga: Let's stay on this topic a bit. Robinson has said over and over that Guzman is his shortstop. End of debate, regardless of what others say. Now, does that mean Spivey won't get a game here or a game there? Certainly not. But I would bet against a straight-out plattoon. The Nationals' success, remember, is anchored in pitching and defense, and Guzman at shortstop is by far their best defensive lineup.


An undisclosed location in the District: Barry,

I'm at an undisclosed location because somehow I can see the Nats via MLB.TV at the moment.

It looked like Guillen's second homer was caught by some Nats fans in the outfield bleachers. Was that really the case and how many visiting fans are out there today?

Barry Svrluga: There are a few Nationals fans here today, and have been all week. I ran into a couple at a local establishment last evening. Seemed to be enjoying themselves, decked out in Nationals gear.


Barry Svrluga: Patterson seems to have settled down. He's retired eight straight and 10 of last 11. Going to the top of the sixth still tied.


Cheltenham, Md.: Hey Barry, Wondering if you could confirm that it was Bob Feller who threw out the first pitch on June 9 against the A's? I met him but missed the first pitch and assumed that's why he was there. Thanks.

Barry Svrluga: Consider it confirmed.


Panera of Pittsburgh: Barry:

What are your thoughts and the coaches thoughts on this new pitcher Drese?

Looked great last week, but fell apart last night. He looks like he has pretty good stuff, but really needs to able to work all corners of the plate to be truly effective.

Barry Svrluga: They were pretty frustrated last night, when they really needed someone to go deep into a game and he couldn't get the first out of the fourth, and handed back leads twice. This is the scary part of the Spivey-Tomo Ohka trade. Yes, Spivey was a good fit until Jose Vidro comes back, and Ohka was unhappy with the Nationals. But he was a solid pitcher, a guy traded with a 3.33 ERA, and if Drese doesn't work out, that trade could be exposed as a failure. Someone -- Drese, Zach Day, Sun Woo Kim or a player they'll trade for -- has to anchor down that final spot in the rotation.

If it's Drese, he must do it with his sinker. He allowed a few groundball singles last night, and that apparently got to him, because the weak-hitting Pirates then began driving the ball.


Rockville, Md.: Drese got lit up last night! Is this going to be more indicative of him and was his stellar performance against the Angels just an aberration? And who is the better team in your opinion? O's or Nats?

Barry Svrluga: OK, we'll stay with Drese a bit. Think about it: If Drese's eight innings of two-hit, shutout ball against the Angels was typical for him, would Texas have ever let him go?

No. So we're likely to see some inconsistency. His ERA with Texas: 6.46.


Arlington, Va.: Anyone other than Chad Cordero likely to represent the Nationals at the All Star Game? I'd love to see Nick Johnson represent the team as well, but there is a ton of 1st base talent in the NL. Do you think they might invite Frank Robinson to be there as one of the coaches?

Barry Svrluga: If the team was chosen today, Cordero would have to be a lock, wouldn't he? He leads the majors in saves with 22, has blown just two chances, has saved his last 19 in a row and has the best ERA among National League relievers. That's a pretty bullet-proof resume, no?

Johnson: He has a chance, but NL Manager Tony La Russa would have to take three first basemen, because Albert Pujols and Derrek Lee (who, by the way, could threaten the Triple Crown) are locks.

Shouldn't Livan Hernandez be an All-Star?

Asked Robinson yesterday whether he thought he'd be asked. He said no.


Washington, D.C.: I agree with making the "businessman special" more inclusive. I am a man, but not a "business"man. Maybe "officeworker's special" or "9-to-5er's special" or "cubicleworker's special"

Barry Svrluga: Keep thinking outside that cubicle, Washington.


RedSox Nation: How long before the Red sox get over this being 3 games back from the O's?

Barry Svrluga: The hope for Red Sox fans (not that I know any personally) is that the Orioles injuries will slow them down. The Sox offense seems to be coming around, doesn't it? How about that Papi Ortiz? And Manny seems to be coming around, average-wise, too. But will the pitching hold up?


Rosslyn, Va.: Why doesn't Tony Blanco start when Vinny Castilla gets a day off? Is he that abyssmal with the glove at 3B?

Barry Svrluga: In a word: Yes.


Windsor Mill, Md.: I haven't heard anyone admit one thing about Mike Scioscia. In that red uniform he sure looks an awful lot like Bob Knight.

Barry Svrluga: Windsor Mill, you are wiser than the rest of us.


Washington, D.C.: Barry, have you made it over to Premanti Brothers in Pittsburgh yet for one of their famous sandwiches?

They are the anti-Panera.

Barry Svrluga: OK, now the most important development of the road trip. I met a friend from college last night after the game, a true Pittsburgher. We had an Iron City Light or two, and despite the fact that I had eaten plenty of dinner, decided Primanti Bros. would be a good idea.

I'll say this: I have never had both an egg AND French fries INSIDE my sandwich.

I am not even close to being fully recovered.


Richmond, Va.: Monsieur Svrluga, bonjour. The day is nice in Pittsburgh, mais no?

Bowden said this morning that the team is looking for trades to improve pitching, not offense. I was surprised at that comment. Of the teams 4 best hitters, Vidro is injured, Wilky has never hit above .270 in any season in his career, Vinny hasn't hit above .270 since '99, and N. Johnson hasn't stayed healthy for a full yr. since The Civil War. Your thoughts, oh thy master of Steel Town.

Barry Svrluga: Ah, mon ami, Richmond. You make an interesting observation. But consider the size of RFK. That's a place they're going to try to win 4-3, not 9-7. This team has done it with pitching and defense thus far. Getting one more arm -- either for the rotation or the bullpen -- would be a wise decision, I'd say, considering the last trade was for a utility player and gave up a pitcher.



McLean, Va., Book Lover: I recall in the back of my mind that you are writing a book on this season on the Nats. Am I remembering correctly?

Barry Svrluga: Indeed, you are correct. But just as the season, it is very much a work in progress.


Croton-On-Hudson, N.Y.: Barry, What's the atmosphere in the clubhouse like? Given all the veterans and some of the personalities, I can't picture a party atmosphere or one where players are goofing off constantly. It seems like they'd be more professional and businesslike.

Barry Svrluga: It's very relaxed, actually, and the veterans seem to be the guys who keep it that way. Carlos Baerga is forever putting something new in the stereo, and he, Wil Cordero and Vinny Castilla seem to like to keep things loose. Even after losses lately, it hasn't been tense -- a departure from past years, say those who were around the club in Montreal.


Sterling, Va.: Barry-

Face it. The Nationals are all hype and that's it! The fan in this area seem exciting. This is the first year. By next season, the average attendance will be 20,000 then 10,000 the season after. Washington sport teams suck!

How can a 1st place team lose to the Pirates! Geez do the Nationals suck. They are like Nats. Annoying!

Barry Svrluga: Hello, Sterling. Having a nice day?


Sperryville, Va.: How do the other players interact with Jose Guillen? Do they get along with him, steer clear?

Barry Svrluga: Well, Sperryville, it's an interesting relationship. Some of the guys have gone out of their way to say how much he fires them up. At other times, folks steer clear. But they seem to really respect him, because they believe he wants to win. And you should see it: His mood after he wins, even if he goes 0 for 4, is decidedly better than after the team loses.


Dupont, Washington, D.C.: Is Patterson badly injured? Is Frank guilty of pitcher abuse by throwing these guys out despite serious injuries?

Barry Svrluga: Patterson isn't badly injured. He has a slightly stiff back. He received injections on Monday. He said last night he was "fine", and he'd be ready to pitch today.

Now, he is a very particular guy, so he might say afterward that his back took a while to get loose. But he just struck out Daryle Ward for the first out in the sixth, and looks rather comfortable out there.


Washington, D.C.: The Nats have one last road game and then back to the friendly confines of RFK. Do you think that a 5-4 or 4-5 road trip record for this swing is "good enough," or should us Nats fans be concerned? Perhaps I'm putting too much emphasis on tonight's game, but closing the trip with series losses to the Rangers and Pirates would seem disheartening.

Barry Svrluga: Asked Robinson about this before the game. He said he thought the trip would be successful, win or lose. Keep in mind: This team struggled mightily on the road the past two seasons in Montreal. They had one road meltdown this year, the 2-7 trip to Toronto, Cincy and St. Louis, but otherwise have posted two 5-4 trips, with today's result pending.

None of the teams in the N.L. East have winning road records. In fact, the Nationals' 17-21 mark away from home is the best in the division.


Baseball Fan in Northern Virginia: Hi. I'm a big baseball fan and I got to plenty of Nationals and Orioles games. I also make a trip once or twice a year to Pittsburgh (my favorite ballpark), and I noticed that the Pirates have a special promotion night virtually every home game. Why do the Nationals have so very few promotional nights/giveaways? I'd think that with this being the inaugural season that companies would be lining up to promote their businesses by participating in a promotional night.

Barry Svrluga: I will look into this, but I'll tell you that the answer will almost certainly be, "We got a late start." But it's a good point, and I'll ask when I see some of the staff back home this weekend.


Barry Svrluga: Patterson just went 1-2-3 for the third straight time. Headed to the top of the seventh, and it's 4-4.


Burke, Va.: Barry,

Any word on how Dutch Zimmerman is doing in the minors?

Barry Svrluga: Ryan "Dutch" Zimmerman (still not sure how that nickname started, or whether it will stick) went 0 for 4 in his professional debut last night for the Class A Savannah Sand Gnats (or, perhaps, in this case, Sand Gnationals).

Zimmerman is the Nationals' first-round pick, the fourth choice overall, out of UVa. He was supposed to start at Class AA Harrisburg, but took a couple of weeks off to go to his brother's high school graduation, etc. If he does well, he'll be moved up in two weeks or so.


"businessman special": Am I the only one who thinks some folks have too much time on their hands?

Barry Svrluga: No, I can assure you, you are not.


Vienna, Va.: Barry:

I'm one of the Guzman skeptics who, after this week ... is still skeptical.

Anybody can hit anything in 70 AB - and until Guzman comes through consistently I'll be saying BOOOOOOOO instead of GUUUUUUUUUUUZ.

P.S. Tell Boz "blah blah blah" for me.

Barry Svrluga: Believe me, I am not someone who thinks Guzman is helping this team offensively. I'm just reporting what the team says: That they're sticking with the guy. He just had his third bat at-bat of the day, faking bunt, then slapping the ball directly at the second baseman. He's 0 for 3.


Richmond, Va.: Barry, is it true that Saturday night's game at RFK is FLOPPY HAT NIGHT? I just found this out!

If this is the case, is a FISHIN POLE night coming up soon? How a bout a LIVE BAIT night?

Just curious.

Barry Svrluga: Bucket o' Minnows night is August 6, I believe.


Alabama: One comment, one question. As someone who once lived in Pittsburgh (and still loves the city), I should point out that there are great places to eat in the Steel City where the fries don't sit on top of the sandwich. I know -- Primanti Brothers makes a distinctive sandwiches, but there are other places, too.

What have you thought of the Pirates during this series? I want to believe they're turning a corner, but then the memories of all the losing creep back into my brain and make me shake my head again. Especially when they face good teams like the Nationals.

Barry Svrluga: Funny to even consider teh phrase "when they face good teams like the Nationals."

The Pirates and the Nationals really aren't that different. There are no eye-popping bats in either lineup. The Nationals have received much more consistent starting pitching. But if the Pirates win today, it'll be their sixth straight home series victory.


15th and L: Barry, I wish I was in Pittsburgh today as well. Question, Will Cordero has looked absolutely terrible at the plate. I would say he should be the expendable one when Vidro returns. Am I off base?

Barry Svrluga: I think you are directly on base. My prediction: He will be placed back on the disabled list, because his knee is always heavily wrapped after games, and then they could keep him around because guys like him in the clubhouse. But he's 1 for 25. What other decision is there?


Rosslyn, Va.: looks like Randy Johnson could use a change of scenary, too. For argument sake, what would the yankees want in return from the nationals?

Barry Svrluga: The National Mall.


Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: Is Richmond, VA a Post staffer or something? He/She asked the same question of Les Carpenter yesterday. Sheesh.

Barry Svrluga: Really? We need better sleuths on these chats.


Ashburn, Va.: Looking ahead, what are our chances with the Jays this weekend? They beat us up pretty bad last time ... They said Loaiza is pitching on Friday ... Is he healthy (for real and not just because everyone else is hurt)?

Barry Svrluga: Talked to Loaiza before the game today. He said he felt much better, and that he was going to throw some before the game to test it out. But he felt like he'd be able to pitch Friday.

Saturday should be a good one: They moved Livan Hernandez up to Saturday night, which is, indeed, Floppy Hat Night (FHN). I'd expect a large crowd for that one.


Bethesda, Md.: Barry -- after the confrontation in Anaheim, Jose Guillan said that something to the effect that a lot of Nats don't like Frank Robinson. True?

Barry Svrluga: This year, things seem fine, other than the Day/Ohka stuff. But Robinson admits he isn't the most personable manager. He's not a "players' manager," in the truest definition of the term. Yes, he'll walk through the clubhouse occasionally, but he doesn't hang out there. In Montreal, there were times when players -- led by former third baseman Fernando Tatis -- really disliked Robinson.

Are there some Nationals who don't like the manager? Sue. But I wouldn't say it's "a lot."


For The Guzman haters...: Enough with the Guzman talk. The guy's hit around .300 since the 1st of June. Sure he's had a tough series in P'burgh.

Wilkerson&Castilla have seen their batting averages drop anywhere from 50 to 75 points in the last month or so. Don't hear anyone booing them. Guz is the Juwan Howard of the team this year - they paid a guy all star money who doesn't have the talent of an all star. That's not Guzman's fault.

Barry Svrluga: Truth be told, he's not getting All-Star money. Four million a year isn't All-Star money for a shortstop. Renteria got about $10 million/year, I believe.

Castilla is out of the lineup today because of what Robinson called a "tired back." And I agree: His slump (down to .255 average, .397 slugging) is of more concern.


Barry Svrluga: One out in the bottom of the seventh, runner on second, pinch hitter Bobby Hill up, and Patterson just walked him.

First and second, one out, in a tie game.


Arlington, Va.: The Nationals players are great about signing autographs. Thanks guys! Why is the manager so reluctant to do so? He's downright nasty about it.

Barry Svrluga: Robinson generally likes to keep a low profile on game days. At spring training, he sat in a golf cart and signed whatever people wanted for 30 minutes at a time after workouts were over.


Chantilly: How bad does SI look now that its poll listed Frank Robinson as the majors' worst manager?

Barry Svrluga: Asked Robinson about that the other day. He said he didn't think it would be changed, even now that the Nationals are in first place. He thinks it's because guys don't see him as personable.


Barry Svrluga: Matt Lawton single up the middle loads the bases with one out, and here comes Robinson to get Patterson. Looks like it'll be Hector Carrasco's job to get out of this jam.


Cambridge, Md.: How is Ian Desmond looking? Can he fill in for Guzman or be the key piece to a trade?

Barry Svrluga: Desmond is hitting .240 with 4 homers and 20 RBI in 63 games for Class A Savannah. I don't think the Nationals want to trade him at all, and while they believe he's ready defensively, they're not ready to bring him up because of his bat. Remember: He's 19.


Washington, D.C.: Barry, burning question that I must have an answer to! Does frank robby have a uniform? He's always wearing the bp shirt or nats jacket but never the jersey top. What gives? Does he have a number? Does he not like the uni's? Is he getting paid to model the merchandise?? I MUST KNOW

Barry Svrluga: He does, indeed, have a uniform, and his number is 20. I haven't asked him about this burning question, but will make sure I address it soon.


Your 8th Grade English Teacher: Love your writing. It's so human, particularly for a sports reporter. I hope you're the one writing the book on the Nats' first season. Regardless of how it ends, this year in Washington baseball will make a great story.

Just a pet peeve, though. "Woah" is spelled w-h-o-a.

Barry Svrluga: Wow. Scituate, Mass., is that you? Gates Intermediate School?

Next you're going to tell me "owch" is spelled "ouch" and "geez" is spelled "jeez."


Barry Svrluga: Hang on. Game at a crucial point.


Barry Svrluga: Carrasco got Tike Redman to ground to first baseman Nick Johnson, who threw home for the force out. Bases still plugged, two down, 4-4, and Jason Bay at the plate against Carrasco.


Colorado Springs, Colo.: When's Barry Svrluga bobblehead day?

Barry Svrluga: Something about donkeys flying and pigs dancing, I think.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Just curious whether Frank took any blame for not lifting Drese when his spot came up in the fourth yesterday. Drese had only nine career at-bats and popped up a sacrifice bunt, effectively short-circuiting the Nats inning.

I thought it was the turning point in the game. If Frank takes Drese out there, he never has to come take the ball from him in the middle of the Perez at-bat later. The Nats also could have gone back up 5-4. A little foresight by Frank could have saved some hurt feelings.

Barry Svrluga: I think that's a good point. The problem, though, was they were in a bit of a bind last night. They really wanted Drese to go deep into the game because Kim was unavailable, and they didn't know whether Patterson or Loaiza -- both battling back problems -- would be able to pitch today. So he let him stay in hoping he'd get things straightened out the next inning.

Obviously, that didn't work, though.


Barry Svrluga: Well, Hector Carrasco (who I have personally nicknamed "Found Money") just struck out Jason Bay with the bases loaded to end the threat. The game goes to the top of the eighth, tied 4-4.


Rosslyn, Va.: "I ran into a couple at a local establishment last evening"

Does the Mrs. know you're frequenting such seedy places?

Barry Svrluga: Who said it was "seedy."

And yes, she's well aware of my many foibles.


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: WOW, I can't believe they got out of that inning! I'm at work "watching" the pitch-by-pitch on CBS Sportsline, it's better than nothing.

Barry Svrluga: A thrill to sit in front of your computer waiting for that next strike to pop in, isn't it?

Nice job by Carrasco, who is one of the reasons this team is succeeding. He came to spring training out of shape, and looked washed up. But he entered today with a 2-1 record and a 2.35 ERA.


Philadelphia, Pa.: Why, oh why, did Frank not pinch-hit for Patterson during the top of the 7th? He was already over 100 pitches, and it was his turn at bat.

Barry Svrluga: Very legitimate question, which will be asked afterward.

Guillen just singled to left to lead off the eighth, making him 4 for 4.


S. Capitol St.: Any chance we are going to get a park as nice as PNC? When are we going to get some idea of what the new ballpark is going to look like? If they keep dragging their feet in DC, no way we are in the new house by 2008.

Barry Svrluga: If I was building the ballpark on S. Capitol and M Sts. SW, I'd take a tour up here to Pittsburgh. This stadium frames the city skyline beautifully, and appears to have all the amenities.


Rockville, Md.: Barry,

When I watch the Nats, I feel like they are never out of a game. But the O's, you can tell if they are going to win or lose by the middle innings of most games. Is it just me or is this true to you as well?

Barry Svrluga: Well, I think you're mostly right about the Nationals, as long as they're within three runs. I don't think they have the ability to come back from large deficits, because they're not that explosive.

As for the Orioles, it's difficult for me to say, as I can hardly ever watch them, as I'm almost always at the Nationals games.


Burke, Va.: I saw a note in the paper today that Zach Day was progressing. I assume that when he is well, and if he performs well in his first few starts he will get promoted again to the Majors. Any since if there is still a trade on hold out there? And if so, might the priority be shifting to acquiring another pitcher rather than another outfielder?

Barry Svrluga: Day is progressing, and he'll throw a simulated game on Tuesday, a precursor to a minor league rehab assignment. The trade is not "on hold" anymore, but could be rekindled if Day pitches well.

Or, if he pitches well, the Nationals very well could decide to keep him.


Barry Svrluga: Folks, once again, I'm sorry I can't get to all your questions, but I need to turn my full attention to this game, and our time is up.

Nick Johnson bounced into a 4-6-3 double play to erase Guillen, and Ryan Church just drew a walk. Two outs, top of the eighth, Nationals 4, Pirates 4, Junior Spivey up.

Thanks for dropping by. We'll do it again next week.


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