Mike Stanton, the newest member of the Washington Nationals' bullpen, said Thursday that he wasn't used enough during his stint with the New York Yankees at the beginning of the season, and that he believes he can pitch effectively for an inning at a time with his new club.

Stanton, who posted a 7.07 ERA with the Yankees before being cut loose, said New York Manager Joe Torre no longer used him in critical situations.

"Right or wrong, the way Joe works bullpens, he has his guys that pitch in close games," Stanton said. "They play a lot of close games, and if you're not one of those guys, you don't get to get out there. . . .

"I've never been a left-handed specialist in my career, but I did everything I could to make it work, and I don't feel like I pitched my way out of a job. I think it was a situation where they were trying to send a message to the rest of the team."

Stanton, a left-hander, and right-hander Paul Quantrill were designated for assignment June 30, when the Yankees were struggling. "Paul Quantrill and I were kind of the odd men out, kind of put our head up there on the altar to pay the price," Stanton said. "But that's in the past now."

Johnson's Return Uncertain

First baseman Nick Johnson, who did not travel with the team to Milwaukee, is wearing a protective boot to help his bruised right heel improve, but the club continues to be circumspect about Johnson's return. Manager Frank Robinson said he believed Johnson would wear the boot for the next week or so but didn't know when he might be ready to return. General Manager Jim Bowden said this week there is no timetable for Johnson's return. . . .

Outfielder Ryan Church didn't start Thursday against left-hander Doug Davis, but he appeared as a pinch hitter in his first at-bat since June 22. Church said his shoulder injuries are teaching him how to deal with pain. As a pinch hitter in a tie game in the eighth, he flew out. . . . The last Montreal/Washington player to homer in his first at-bat with the franchise -- before Preston Wilson -- was Guillermo Mota on June 6, 1999.