Notes: Acta has meeting with Bowden

Notes: Acta has meeting with Bowden

ATLANTA -- Nationals manager Manny Acta had a closed-door meeting with general manager Jim Bowden on Wednesday afternoon. Neither talked about what was said, but both made it clear that they are going to remain patient even though the team was 1-7 entering Wednesday's action. They are both willing to take their lumps, because they are building for the future.

Being patient is something new for Bowden. In the past, with Frank Robinson as the manager, Bowden was always ready to make a roster move whenever the team was struggling.

"They are the same as they were a month ago, two months ago and six months ago. We are on the plan," Bowden said. "[For example], Matt Chico did well last night, according to Manny. I think he hit a wall, but that's what happens when you develop young players [at] this level. He went right from Double-A to the big leagues, but Manny was very pleased with his outing. That's what we are doing, we are developing.

"The plan is really clear. We told everybody publicly where we were going. There is a lot of growing pains that we have to live with. Players are given opportunities and you hope they make the most of it."

Maybe the biggest surprise during the team's current five-game losing streak has been the defense. The Nationals lead the Major Leagues in errors and have the worst fielding percentage. But Bowden pointed out that the current lineup has some players out of position.

Ryan Church is playing center because of the injury to Nook Logan, but should be in left field; Felipe Lopez is a far superior second baseman, but he is now the starting shortstop; and Dmitri Young is playing first base. While Young can still hit, he cannot match Nick Johnson with the glove.

"One of the things we thought would be a little bit different is that Nook would be in center, [Cristian Guzman] at short, Lopez at second, Nick at first, [Alex] Escobar in left. But that is because of injuries and that's all part of it. It gives opportunities for other players," Bowden said.

A bat is missing: Acta said that Escobar is missed, because he could be the right-handed power hitter off the bench or play every day in center field once Logan went down with his foot injury. Escobar, however, is still recovering from a shoulder injury, and there is no timetable as to when he will return.

"He is a great right-handed bat that could give us balance," Acta said. "Even if the team is full, coming off the bench is tremendous, too."

Josh Wilson, Jesus Flores and D'Angelo Jimenez, a switch-hitter, are the right-handed hitters off the bench, but they are not difference-makers with the bat.

Injury report: Reliever Ray King will have an MRI on his ailing left shoulder on Thursday, according to Bowden. King said it feels the same as it did the previous night against the Braves.

"You don't know what it is," King said. "I'm hoping it's just tendinitis. We are going to ice it, treat it. Hopefully, by the end of the day, we'll make a decision. [The] DL is something I don't know anything about."

On Tuesday, King entered the game in the eighth with the Nationals down, 4-0, and the Braves hit him hard. He gave up four runs on two hits and walked three batters in two-thirds of an inning. The last batter he faced was catcher Brian McCann. After throwing a couple of pitches to McCann, King couldn't go any further.

King acknowledged that he has had problems with his shoulder for a while. He hasn't been able to throw his slider effectively.

The last time King was on the disabled list was in 2002, when he had elbow inflammation. He currently has a one-year contract with the Nationals for $850,000.

The team hopes to get right-hander Jason Simontacchi to pitch five innings by April 26. He is expected to throw two innings on Saturday. Simontacchi hasn't been able to pitch because of a strained right groin.

Luis Ayala, who had elbow reconstruction surgery last year, has finally recovered from his neck problems and is expected to pitch an inning in an extended Spring Training game on Thursday. He will throw 20 pitches. There is no timetable as to when he will return to the big-league level.

Quote of the day: "I'm not going to make any excuses in Colorado. I wish I could go back and [press] control-alt-delete." -- King, on whether or not he was hurt in Colorado

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Stats of the day: Entering Wednesday's action, the starting rotation has a 4.03 ERA in its last four games.

Did you know: The worst start in Washington baseball history came from the 1904 Washington Nationals. They dropped their first 13 games, before beating the New York Highlanders, 9-4, on May 5.

Coming up: The Nationals return to Turner Field on Thursday night as they play the final game of a three-game series against the Braves. Washington right-hander Jason Bergmann will face Atlanta right-hander John Smoltz.

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