The addition of outfielder Brandon Watson -- called up from Class AAA New Orleans for Tuesday's game against the Houston Astros -- was meant, at least in part, to add speed to the Nationals' sloth-like lineup, one that is last in the National League in stolen bases.
Watson, who swiped 27 bases in 39 attempts for New Orleans and seven more in 12 attempts with Class AA Harrisburg, said he was free to steal whenever he wanted in the minors, and Manager Frank Robinson said he would be free to do so in the majors as well. Robinson, however, said from the beginning of spring training that several of his players would be allowed to steal when they wanted. Yet they have been a miserable base-running team thus far, having successfully stolen 31 bases in 62 attempts -- 50 percent, the worst in the majors.
"Either they don't concern themselves about it or don't think it's important, or don't want to do it, or they're afraid of failure," Robinson said.
Watson didn't have much of a chance to steal bases in his major league debut Tuesday night, a 6-5 victory over the Astros, because he hit a double and a home run. But he said base stealing was something he concentrated on in the minor leagues.
"I've been working on my jumps, and my pitch recognition," he said. "The count, that's important. I never knew that, but it's important to pick the right pitch in the counts."
Schneider Is Back in Lineup
Catcher Brian Schneider was back in the lineup after missing five games with bursitis in his right shoulder. During that time, Schneider didn't once take batting practice, but was eager to return to action. "The test," he said, "is how I feel tomorrow." . . .
Reliever Gary Majewski, a Houston native, scrambled to find tickets -- he needed 61 -- for family and friends before the game. The most important person in the crowd at Minute Maid Park? His grandfather, Bruno, who had a stent placed in one of his arteries last month and is just now recovered enough to see his grandson pitch. "It'll be great for him to be here," Majewski said.