When the Washington Nationals took talented young hitter Tony Blanco in the Rule 5 draft last December, it seemed like a logical move. Blanco, 23, is the type of hitter who could blossom into a force. The Nationals weren't expected to contend for a playoff berth, and even though a Rule 5 pick must be kept on the major league roster all season in order for a team to be sure it holds onto his rights, Blanco seemed worth the risk.
Yesterday, though, the Nationals reinstated Blanco from the 15-day disabled list (vertigo), and the move cost them a pitcher. Right-hander Sun Woo Kim was claimed off waivers by the Colorado Rockies.
"It's disappointing," Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden said.
To help provide depth in the minors, the Nationals signed lefty John Halama, a veteran of eight major league seasons, to a minor league contract. Halama, who went 1-1 with a 6.18 ERA with the Boston Red Sox, will report to Class AAA New Orleans as soon as today.
Kim's statistics -- 1-2 with a 6.14 ERA -- didn't tell the story of his contribution, and his loss leaves the Nationals with no safety net at the major league level should one of the starters go down. In two starts for the Nationals, Kim had a 2.79 ERA. But he hadn't pitched in a week, and when Manager Frank Robinson used reliever Luis Ayala to pinch-hit Wednesday night against Los Angeles, Bowden said he could "take a hint."
Blanco, who hit .281 with 14 RBI in 64 at-bats during his rehabilitation assignment at New Orleans, isn't proficient defensively at any of his positions -- third base, first base or the outfield. He hit .250 with one homer in 44 at-bats with the Nationals earlier this year. Robinson said he believes Blanco will one day "be a force on a ballclub," but acknowledged the situation isn't ideal.
"It's a difficult situation any time a team has any thoughts of contending for a championship to carry a Rule 5 guy that you're not going to play a lot," Robinson said.
Bowden, who said several teams asked about Blanco prior to the trade deadline, said the team was "happy to have him."
"He's held his own up here," Bowden said. "He hasn't been a Rule 5 to carry. That's not the case."