Notes: LeCroy OK with manager's move

Notes: LeCroy OK with manager's move

WASHINGTON -- A day after getting emotional for taking catcher Matthew LeCroy out of the game in the top of the seventh inning because he'd allowed the Astros to steal seven bases and committed two errors, manager Frank Robinson was composed, and said there isn't anything the team can do about improving its backup catching situation.

For now, Robert Fick will be the second catcher, and LeCroy will play behind the plate in emergency situations. Fick didn't play his first game as backstop until Thursday, when he replaced LeCroy, who was the backup prior to then.

"Fick can catch, but it depends on how well his arm is, as far as his throwing is concerned," Robinson said. "[LeCroy's] not a catcher. He can go back there and catch, but he's not a catcher. He doesn't have the throwing mechanics to be a catcher."

During Spring Training, LeCroy's reputation was right on the money. He had a productive bat but wasn't very good behind the plate. He had problems catching popups, calling games, blocking balls and throwing out runners.

But after the season started, LeCroy became one of Robinson's favorite players because of his hard work. LeCroy, who played only one game behind the plate with Twins in 2005, showed signs of improving.

Recently, Robinson had raved about LeCroy's game calling, and the catcher can now catch popups and block balls. The only thing he has to do now is improve the arm, which weakened once he started playing for the Twins, and he battled with shoulder tendinitis over the years.

LeCroy also said that playing and strengthening his arm is the only way to get better.

"You have to keep working every day, long tossing, and try strengthening it up," said LeCroy. "It's just something you have to work on. I like catching, but throwing has been my drawback."

He hated the fact that his performance overshadowed the victory on Thursday and is still surprised that Robinson was so emotional after the game.

"I feel fine. There's nothing you can do but come back out," he said. "Frank made the move, and I don't have a problem with that. He made that move for a reason, and I'm fine with it, and you just have to move on."

Look who's back: Robinson spoke to general manager Jim Bowden, who is scouting amateur players for the First-Year Player Draft, on Friday, and told his boss that the team couldn't miss Brian Schneider for another day, especially after what happened with LeCroy on Thursday.

Although Schneider was activated on Friday, there was talk of him missing another game for precautionary reasons. Schneider missed the last two weeks because of a left hamstring strain.

Schneider ended up starting the game against the Dodgers, and it likely means that he will start most of the year without much rest. That might spell bad news, because in 2003 and 2004, Schneider was hardly given any rest because of inadequate backups, and it could end up affecting his offense. Schneider vows, however, that he will not be in an offensive slump this season.

"[In those years], I didn't have two weeks off," said Schneider. "I hope this DL stint was a way to refresh my body. My arm feels great right now. I've been throwing to the bases, and it's the best it has felt all year."

Injury report: After activating Schneider, the Nationals placed reliever Felix Rodriguez on the 15-day disabled list because of right shoulder tendinitis. Rodriguez hasn't pitched in a game since May 19, against the Orioles.

At first, according to Robinson, Rodriguez had tightness in his right forearm. He is 0-1 with a 6.85 ERA in 24 appearances, and Robinson believes that his lack of production stems from the injury.

"I'm sure he pitched a few times with [the injury], without saying anything," said Robinson. "But once he said something, we took precautions against him injuring himself for any length of time. I think he'll be all right in a few more days. We DL'd him to make sure of that."

After the Nationals defeated the Astros on Thursday, the TV camera panned to Robinson, who was talking with outfielder Jose Guillen about Guillen's right hamstring injury.

Robinson told Guillen that he shouldn't have started the game. Guillen ended up aggravating the injury after grounding out in the first inning.

"He wanted to try it, and start the game," said Robinson. "He started and couldn't go very far. So what you do there is, you lose his services as pinch-hitter or anything like that."

Guillen, who is listed as day-to-day, will re-evaluate his situation on Saturday. He missed five games earlier this month because of the injury.

"I'm really considerate to take my time now," said Guillen. "I don't want to keep hurting myself, and I don't want to go through this all year. I'm going to come tomorrow and see how it feels. If I feel like it doesn't feel right, I might go on the DL and try to get better. I don't want it coming back and hurting myself."

Right-hander Jon Rauch is still recovering from a stomach virus caused by food poisoning. Rauch, who does not know what he ate that caused the problem, was able to pitch twice this week despite having the virus.

"It kind of went away for a couple of days and it reared its ugly head again," said Rauch. "I'm on antibiotics to clean the stomach out, and let's see what happens there."

Ryan Drese, who has a partial ligament tear in his right elbow, will travel with the team to Atlanta and play catch on June 5. If things go well, he hopes to have a bullpen session a week or two after that.

Transaction: Following Friday's game, the Nationals outrighted catcher Wiki Gonzalez to Triple-A New Orleans and purchased the contract of right-hander Shawn Hill from New Orleans.

Gonzalez has 72 hours to accept the assignment or become a free agent.

Hill, 25, will start against the Dodgers on Saturday. He went a combined 3-2 with a 2.74 ERA for New Orleans and Double-A Harrisburg. The Toronto native returns to the big leagues for the first time since making three starts for the 2004 Expos. He garnered his lone Major League win on July 4, 2004, vs. Toronto in Puerto Rico.

Hill missed all of last season after undergoing elbow reconstruction surgery.

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Coming up: The Nationals play the second game of their three-game series against the Dodgers on Saturday afternoon. Hill will get the start for Washington, and right-hander Derek Lowe (2-3, 3.08 ERA) gets the nod for Los Angeles.

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