Notes: Fick back, Jackson released

Notes: Fick back, Jackson released

ATLANTA -- The Nationals activated catcher/first baseman Robert Fick from the 15-day disabled list on Friday and released infielder Damian Jackson.

Fick had been out almost a month with a rib cartilage separation that occurred against the Giants on July 31. He went on a rehab assignment on Monday and went 4-for-15 (.267) with two RBIs for Double-A Harrisburg.

He more than likely will share backup duties behind the plate with Brandon Harper and be the primary backup at first base for Nick Johnson. Fick was hitting .244 (20-for-82) with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs in 37 games with Washington when he was placed on the 15-day DL.

Fick said that he was able to slide head-first and feet-first and reach for the ball without feeling any pain.

"Everything is great," Fick said. "It was never sore at any time [with Harrisburg]."

As for Jackson, a lack of performance was the reason he's no longer on the Nationals. He was having one of the toughest seasons of his career, hitting .198 with four home runs and 10 RBIs.

But stats don't tell the whole story. Jackson wasn't doing the little things on the field. For example, he had difficulty bunting the ball to advance runners and also wasn't doing the job defensively.

On Sunday, Jackson replaced Ryan Zimmerman at third base and made three errors against the Phillies. Jackson blamed his poor performance that day on not being up to game speed. Before that game, Jackson has played just 10 games and received just 15 at-bats since the All-Star break.

By Thursday, the organization decided it was better off with Henry Mateo and Bernie Castro as the backups. Mateo and Castro are better hitters and baserunners than Jackson.

Jackson was one of the six players the Nationals almost released back in May, but then-president Tony Tavares decided against it for budgetary reasons. Jackson's game improved for a couple of weeks after that. For a time, he was starting in center field and ended the month of May by hitting .275. But it went downhill after that, as he went 9-for-60 (.150).

"Damian was not able to perform, both offensively and defensively, to the level we had hoped," general manager Jim Bowden said. "We felt with the last five weeks of the season, we would give Henry Mateo and Bernie Castro the opportunity."

Manager Frank Robinson also acknowledged that Jackson didn't live up to expectations, but believes that Jackson is a better player than what he saw. Twice during the season, the TV cameras caught Robinson yelling at Jackson. Both times, Robinson denied that he was yelling at Jackson, who confirmed that he was being scolded by the skipper for mistakes on the field.

"He's a better player than what he showed here," Robinson said. "For whatever reason, he wasn't able to do it here, and it wasn't all because of lack of playing time."

Let's get it right: At 2:15 p.m. ET, Robinson and the entire coaching staff were on the field working with Castro and right-hander Tony Armas Jr.

One group was working with Castro on turning the double play, while another group was teaching Armas how to bunt. The session lasted for almost an hour. Castro has had problems turning the double play since he joined the Nationals.

Castro's arm strength is fine, but the clubs feels he has to improve his footwork around the bag.

"We want him to develop some solid foundation to help his hands," bench coach Eddie Rodriguez said. "He has developed some habits that we have to break. He is long with his stride. He gets his feet caught up and ends up throwing across his body, and that all relates how he approaches the bag."

As for Armas, he is having problems getting sacrifice bunts down. Jose Cardenal, a special advisor to Bowden, hitting coach Mitchell Page and pitching Randy St. Claire were working on the pitcher's bunting mechanics. After the lessons, Armas bunted the ball in the cage for 25 minutes.

No big deal: Robinson was not upset that Sports Illustrated published a players poll that voted him the worst manager in baseball. It was the second year in a row Robinson received the distinction.

'It doesn't bother me because I know better," Robinson said. "I know I'm not the 30th-best manager in baseball."

Be a part of the mailbag: The Nationals mailbag runs on Monday. Send in your questions now.

Stat of the day: In the first six games of their road trip, the Nationals were 9-for-67 (.134) with runners in scoring position.

Did you know? Entering Friday's action, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman led all rookies in RBIs (84), doubles (38), extra-base hits (56) and walks (51).

Coming up: The Nationals play the second game of three-game series against the Braves on Saturday at 1:20 p.m. ET at Turner Field. Right-hander Pedro Astacio takes the mound for Washington, while righty John Smoltz goes to the hill for Atlanta.

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