Notes: Ball not carrying at RFK

Notes: Ball not carrying at RFK

WASHINGTON -- There is a general feeling that once the weather is warm, the ball will carry and more home runs will be hit at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. However, the Nationals played the Braves in warm weather on Monday and Tuesday, and the ball didn't travel very far most of the time.

On Monday, for example, outfielder Jose Guillen hit two balls he felt should have been home runs. One ball was caught in front of the right-field fence, and the other was caught in right-center field.

For the season, Guillen has 10 home runs, and only one has been hit at RFK.

RFK is one of the biggest ballparks in baseball. The left-field and right-field lines are 335 feet away from home, center field is 410 feet and the power alleys are 380 feet. Guillen believes that center field and the power alleys are deeper. He hopes the Nationals will move the fences in next year.

"I've hit four or five balls that would have been out in most ballparks. Right now, I should have 15 home runs," Guillen said. "A lot of players benefit from being in their home ballpark. Everybody can tell that RFK is not a little ballpark. So you have to go and get your line drive hits. If you are lucky, you can put one down the line."

RFK, however, has not affected Guillen's batting average or RBI totals. Entering Wednesday's action, Guillen is hitting .305 with 28 RBIs.

"I'm here to just do my job and help the team win. I come to play hard everyday. I want to help this team move to the next level, and hope we get to the playoffs," he said.

Taking a break: Robinson gave closer Chad Cordero the day off after Cordero pitched four consecutive days. Luis Ayala was available to close the game on Wednesday against the Braves.

Cordero said that his right arm was sore, and a day off would help. He expects to be ready to pitch Thursday.

Off to a slow start: Lefty C.J. Nitkowski's job is to get left-handers out, but entering Wednesday's action, left-handed hitters were 2-for-2 with a walk against him.

Interim general manager Jim Bowden has already said that Nitkowski will not be with the team very long if he can't get left-handed hitters out, and Nitkowski is aware that he is on a short leash.

"I'm very confident in my stuff, my ability and my game plan. Everything is there. I need to get it done quickly," Nitkowski said.

Nitkowski was able to get it done on Wednesday night against the Braves. He pitched one shutout inning and struck out left-handed-hitting Adam LaRoche.

"I made an adjustment. I was being stubborn with my fastball. I got three outs on offspeed pitches," Nitkowski said. "Even though we lost, I needed to show that I could get a lefty out. It's good to get the first one out of the way."

A backup for Vidro? According to a source, the Nationals are showing interest in Reds infielder D'Angelo Jimenez.

The switch-hitting Jimenez was hitting .229 with five RBIs before being designated for assignment a couple of weeks ago. He is currently playing for Double-A Chattanooga, a Reds Minor League affiliate.

Jimenez was one of Jim Bowden's last acquisitions before the Reds relieved Bowden of his duties as general manager. Bowden, who is now interim general manager of the Nationals, acquired Jimenez from the White Sox for right-hander Scott Dunn on July 6, 2003.

Jimenez's best year occurred in 2004, when he hit .270 with 12 home runs and 67 RBIs for the Reds.

If Jimenez were to join the Nationals, he would be the everyday second baseman until Jose Vidro is activated from the disabled list. That would mean Jamey Carroll, who is in a 9-for-49 slump, would be benched.

Stat of the day: With 22 doubles entering Wednesday's action, Brad Wilkerson is on pace to break the Major League doubles record. At his current pace, Wilkerson would have 69 doubles at the end of the season. The Major League record is held by Earl Webb, who had 67 doubles for the Red Sox in 1931.

Did you know? The Nationals finished the month of May with a 14-14 record. Nick Johnson led the team in hits (36), home runs (five), RBIs (21) and on-base percentage (.447). Ryan Church led the team in batting average (.377).

On the pitching side, Livan Hernandez led the Nationals in wins with five, while Gary Majewski didn't give up a run during the month of May.

On deck: The Nationals play the final game of a four-game series against the Braves on Thursday night at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.

Right-hander Esteban Loaiza will get the start for the Nationals. In his only other start against the Braves this season, he gave up three runs on seven hits in seven innings on April 12. Loaiza didn't figure in the decision as the Nationals won the game, 4-3.

Last Saturday, Loaiza pitched six solid innings and gave up just three runs on eight hits against the Cardinals. He struck out six and walked one. But it was the second inning that was Loaiza's downfall, as he gave up two home runs, and the Nationals lost the game, 3-1.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.