WASHINGTON -- Catcher/first baseman Matthew LeCroy knew this past weekend that his days with the Nationals were numbered. After the team made the eight-player trade in which it acquired outfielder Austin Kearns and shortstop Felipe Lopez, LeCroy noticed that no other moves were made during the weekend to add some pitching help. Washington had only three starters on the roster.
The Nationals made that move on Monday when they designated LeCroy, 30, for assignment and activated right-hander Tony Armas Jr. from the disabled list. Armas is scheduled to start against the Marlins on Monday.
"It was an extremely difficult decision because Matthew is a tremendous character, who has tremendous makeup," general manager Jim Bowden said. "He is the kind of player you look for in your clubhouse. After talking to [manager] Frank Robinson and discussing what the proper move was, we came to the conclusion that this was the best move to make at this time, given our roster structure and the direction of the organization."
It was Robinson who broke the news to LeCroy in Florida. Bowden is not with the team. He is in Washington trying to make trades before the July 31 deadline. The Nationals have 10 days to trade LeCroy, give him his release or send him to the Minor Leagues. LeCroy is making $850,000 this season.
According to LeCroy, Robinson told him that the Nationals are looking to trade him to an American League team, where he could be used as a designated hitter. LeCroy would not fit on a National League club because of his limited defensive skills.
"Frank told me what Jim was trying to do for me. That would be nice to get back over there, so I could help out another team," LeCroy said. "There are no bitter feelings. This organization gave me a job. It just so happens that Nick Johnson stayed healthy and the at-bats were not there. Frank told me how much he respected me and that meant a lot from coming from him."
LeCroy hit .239 with two homers and nine RBIs in 39 games. He was 5-for-14 (.357) with eight walks as a pinch hitter. However, LeCroy is best remembered for a poor performance behind the plate on May 25. He was taken out of game in the middle of the seventh inning after allowing the Astros to steal seven bases and committing two errors. The fans cheered loudly after Robinson made the move. What made the move so memorable is because, after the game, Robinson got emotional because he felt he embarrassed LeCroy in front of the fans.
LeCroy, on the other hand, understood why Robinson made the move and felt the skipper should not have gotten emotional. LeCroy never caught another game for the Nationals.
As for Armas, he is 6-4 with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts in 2006. He went on the 15-day DL on June 23, retroactive to June 20, with a strained right forearm. Armas made a pair of rehabilitation starts, working a combined 7 1/3 innings for Double-A Harrisburg and the Gulf Coast League Nationals.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.