Notes: Case closed on Soriano sitdown

Notes: Case closed on Soriano sitdown

NEW YORK -- A day after Nationals outfielder Alfonso Soriano was pulled from Wednesday's game against the Mets for not hustling, manager Frank Robinson said the issue was closed. In fact, the skipper inserted Soriano into the starting lineup on Thursday night against New York.

On Wednesday, after Nick Johnson homered with one out in the top of the sixth inning, Soriano followed and swung at Brian Bannister's first pitch, popping up to catcher Paul Lo Duca. Soriano stood in the batter's box and never ran to first base, as Lo Duca easily caught the ball in fair territory. Robinson was then seen waving his towel in disgust, and the manager immediately took Soriano out of the game and replaced him with Marlon Byrd.

Robinson said had the ball been caught in foul territory, Soriano would not have been taken out of the game, but the skipper would have lectured his player.

"I talked to him [on Wednesday] during the game," Robinson said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's closed. It's a non-issue. It's done."

Robinson wants his players to give 100 percent at all times.

"My 100 percent may be different from your 100 percent, but you can run hard the best that you possibly can," Robinson said. "That's all I ask from every player. Run as hard as you can, run the ball out -- popups, broken bats, ground balls. It's an excellent habit to get into, because you never know when somebody is going to misplay a ball a little bit."

General manager Jim Bowden said he supported Robinson's decision for taking Soriano out of the game. Bowden felt it not only set the tone for the game, in which the Nationals won, 9-5, but for the season.

"I have a lot of respect for Frank Robinson," Bowden said. "He has respect for the game of baseball and the way it should be played. I was pleased because he is a man of his word. He said he was going to do something, and he follows up and he does it."

Where's D.J.? In the bottom of the seventh inning on Wednesday, Robinson was set to put Damian Jackson into the game in center field to replace Brandon Watson. The problem was, Jackson was nowhere to be found, and nobody on the team seemed to know where he was.

It turns out Jackson went to the Nationals' bullpen to warm up. With Robinson unable to find his utility player, the skipper almost put in catcher/first baseman Matt LeCroy in left field and moved Byrd to center.

LeCroy had never played the outfield and he was taken by surprise, but Jackson came back into Washington's dugout and made it in time to enter the game in left field, while Byrd officially made the switch to center and LeCroy remained on the bench.

Asked what it would have been like to play left field, LeCroy said, "I don't know. Hopefully, they wouldn't hit me one."

Minor League news: The Nationals announced a four-year player development contract extension through the 2010 season with Double-A Harrisburg. The Senators have been an affiliate of the Nationals/Expos franchise since 1991, and they have won five Eastern League titles since the inaugural campaign. The Senators became the first team in Eastern League history to win four championships in a row when they turned the trick from 1996-99. They also won the title in 1993.

Stat of the day: Outfielder Jose Guillen has hit five extra-inning home runs during his career, including a two-run shot in the 10th inning on Wednesday.

Did you know? On Wednesday, the Nationals hit three home runs in a game for the first time since Aug. 15, 2005, when they hit three against the Phillies in a 6-3 victory.

Coming up: The Nationals travel to Houston to play a four-game series against the Astros, starting Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. will get the start for Washington on Friday, while Brandon Backe will get the nod for Houston.

Armas will face the Astros for the sixth time in his career. He is 2-1 with a 3.14 ERA against them. This will be Armas' first regular season start since having right shoulder surgery last September.

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