Notes: Relief for the rotation

Notes: Relief for the rotation

NEW YORK -- The Nationals had to use a bullpen by committee against the Mets on Tuesday night. It's the second consecutive game in which manager Frank Robinson has had to use a reliever to start a game.

Robinson had to go the bullpen on Sunday against the Braves because he didn't have a fourth or fifth starter to rely on. On Tuesday, he had to turn to his relievers because right-hander John Patterson had a sinus infection and bronchitis that turned into a slight asthma attack.

Hector Carrasco, who hasn't started a game since 2000, when he was with the Red Sox, took Patterson's place on the mound. Unlike in Sunday's game, Robinson thought it was best to start his late-inning relievers instead of his long men or bullpen rookies.

Carrasco has been a pleasant surprise this season for the Nationals, entering the game with a 4-3 record, a 2.04 ERA and two saves.

"You tried the kids to [get you through the early innings] and they didn't do the job, so you might as well go the other way," said Robinson. "Instead of saving those guys in the back end ... we'll start one of those guys that could keep us in the ballgame."

As for Patterson, he is feeling much better and expects to start against the Padres on Friday in San Diego. On Tuesday he had lunch with his agent and walked around Manhattan.

"I don't see any reason why I can't throw on Friday," said Patterson. "We have starters for the next two days. We need a starter for Friday, so that's the day I'm shooting for. I feel terrible that I couldn't pitch. We are only four games back [in the National League Wild Card race]. I've been good this year, going out every fifth day. For it to come down like this is out of my control."

Umpires vs. Robinson: After Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Mets, Robinson spent most of his time telling the media how upset he was that he had been ejected in the sixth inning over balls and strikes.

With Jon Rauch on the mound, it appeared that Mets outfielder Victor Diaz swung at a 1-0 pitch. Home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson didn't see the play, so he asked for help from first-base umpire Bill Miller, who said that Diaz didn't swing.

Robinson had the media look at the replay in the locker room and it showed that Diaz did, indeed, swing at the pitch.

Robinson argued with Nelson for several minutes from the dugout before being ejected.

"I didn't argue balls and strikes," said Robinson. "All I said to [Nelson] was, 'You should have been able to call the play.' That's not arguing balls and strikes. When the first-base umpire said [no swing], I couldn't believe that."

Suddenly, Robinson came out of the dugout to continue his argument with Nelson. Crew chief Joe Brinkman, who was serving as second-base umpire, intervened and told Robinson to get off the field. At one point, Brinkman grabbed Robinson's uniform top. Robinson said that Brinkman swore at him several times while telling him to get off the field.

"He was ejected," said Brinkman. "It was a prolonged argument, and finally, I told him to get off the field."

Asked if he used explicit language, Brinkman said, "I don't know if I did or not, to tell you the truth. I just told him to get out."

Robinson also said that he and Nelson have never gotten along. But when asked to elaborate, he did not recall other incidents.

"There has been tension, and I know he has [ejected me] at least once or twice over the same type of thing, where he had [unnecessary] comments that had nothing to do with the game," said Robinson.

When approached about what Robinson said, Nelson replied that he wasn't going to get into a "he said-he said" scenario and would instead write his report to the league office.

Robinson, who watched the rest of the game in his office, expects to be fined. But he also feels that Brinkman should be suspended for allegedly swearing at him.

Don't look back: The bullpen has been overworked in four of the last six games, including Tuesday's outing against the Mets. It didn't help that Robinson lifted starter John Halama on Sept. 7 after he'd given up one run in two-thirds of an inning against the Marlins.

However, Robinson has no regrets about removing Halama that day, because the left-hander wasn't throwing strikes.

Robinson also was not happy when he read a published report quoting Halama two days later saying that he was trying to figure out the umpire's strike zone in that first inning.

"I'm not going to sit there and have him go ball one and ball two, ball three, ball four. I don't care if it was two outs," said Robinson. "He was one hit away from disaster. And what an excuse, [when Halama said], 'I'm nibbling to see where the umpire's strike zone is. And [the umpire] is checking me out to see what my strike zone is going to be.' I never heard such [stuff].

"What am I supposed to do? Let him stand out there and give up the runs and let it go? No. I don't manage like that."

The Nationals ended up losing, 12-1.

Short rest again: Robinson said that right-hander Esteban Loaiza will pitch on three days' rest on Sunday against the Padres. It will be the third time this season that Loaiza has such an assignment. He won his two previous assignments on short rest.

Injury report: Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. is most likely out for the season because of tightness in his right shoulder. He has some motion in the shoulder, according to Dr. Bruce Thomas, but the shoulder still hurts when he does stretching exercises.

"We have two-plus weeks left, and it's unlikely that he will pitch," said Thomas. "We'll probably look at it from week to week. He is pretty sore with what we are doing."

There is a possibility that Armas could have shoulder surgery after the season ends.

Robinson believes that reliever Luis Ayala should call it a season and have surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. But Thomas said that Ayala has played catch and could be back in action during the Nationals' next homestand if things go well.

"I know this kid. He has never asked for more than one day off when he has thrown a lot," said Robinson. "For him to say that he is hurting, he has got to be hurting."

Robinson also said that second baseman Jose Vidro should call it a season because of right knee problems, but Vidro hopes to play again sometime this week.

Right-hander Ryan Drese will have shoulder surgery on Friday to repair his labrum. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum in Southern California.

Cardenal wants to help: Jose Cardenal, the senior advisor to the general manager, wants to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and is looking to auction his 1998 World Series ring. Cardenal was the Yankees' first-base coach, when the Bronx Bombers won the 1998 World Series over the Padres.

Did you know? Entering Tuesday's action, the Nationals are 33-39 on the road. They have already won more games on the road this season than they did in 2003 and 2004 under Robinson. The Nationals need one more win to match their 2002 total of 34 victories.

Stats of the day: Senators outfielder/first baseman Frank Howard holds the Washington, D.C., record for the most home runs on the road. He hit 26 home runs away for the 1968 Senators.

On deck: The Nationals play the second game of the three-game series against the Mets on Wednesday night at Shea Stadium. Loaiza will face the Mets for the fourth time this season. He is 2-1 with a 3.26 ERA against them.

In Loaiza's last start, his problems against Braves center fielder Andruw Jones continued. On Aug. 31, Jones drove in five runs off Loaiza. Last Friday was almost similar, with Jones driving in four runs, three of them on a home run in the fifth inning. Loaiza lasted six innings and six runs on 10 hits, but the Nationals won the game, 8-6.

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