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Notes: Logan mired in hitting slump

Notes: Logan mired in hitting slump

WASHINGTON -- Nook Logan creates excitement on the bases, but in the past week he hasn't been getting there as often.

Logan, the Nationals center fielder, has seen his average fall from above .300 to its current .262. Manager Manny Acta said that it's important to keep expectations realistic.

"He's hitting eighth. I'm not asking him to go out there and compete for the batting title or anything," Acta said. "I just want him to be himself and create some things for us -- get up there to .270 or .280 and create some havoc on the bases."

Logan's speed is his biggest asset. It's enabled him to play solid defense in the huge outfield at RFK Stadium, as well as run out bunts and steal bases.

Hitting coach Lenny Harris thinks that speed is the key to Logan breaking out of his slump. Instead of getting under the ball, Harris would like to see Logan consistently put the ball on the ground, allowing him to use his speed.

"He has some good games and bad games. He hasn't put four or five in a row together yet," Harris said. "Once he learns how to keep the ball on the ground and go from there, I think he'll be a good leadoff guy someday."

Logan is a switch-hitter who has historically batted better right-handed, but his numbers have evened out this season.

Also a factor is the team's recent acquisition of outfielder Ryan Langerhans, who the Nationals picked up while Logan was out with a hyperextended left foot during the first month of the season. Langerhans has been used as a utility outfielder, and boasts the same defensive speed that Logan does.

Though Langerhans has subbed in occasionally, Acta has remained loyal to Logan both with playing time and vocal support.

"We don't play him every single day, but he is our center fielder," the manager said. "We want to give [Langerhans] some at-bats, keep him sharp, and also let Nook know that there's somebody else here that can play center in case we need to."

Speigner's status undecided: Acta said that he's not yet made a decision on whether pitcher Levale Speigner will throw on Friday when his turn in the rotation comes up again.

"If he's not, it's not going to be because of his stuff or because of him," Acta said.

Speigner went four innings Saturday, giving up six runs in the first inning, but Acta is willing to overlook that, because the runs came as a result of three defensive mistakes. Speigner is a middle reliever, though, and in the coming days, one of the Nats' injured starters may become available again. Joel Hanrahan pitched 3 2/3 innings in Triple-A Columbus on Saturday, giving up four hits and three runs.

"He struggled a little bit, but health-wise he's fine," Acta said. "That's what matters."

Patterson's bullpen outing: Injured pitcher John Patterson threw 40 pitches on Sunday in about 11 minutes, working at a quick pace to help establish rhythm.

"I felt real loose and comfortable," he said. "My body was real relaxed. My delivery was smooth and unfolded at the end, and that's where I'm getting to now."

Patterson started off throwing with about 70 percent of the strength he usually uses, but by the end of the session, he was throwing fastballs, sliders and curveballs with his full strength.

"It's getting stronger every day," he said. "I see an improvement every day, which is really good. It makes it fun to come to the ballpark every day."

He'll throw another bullpen session on Wednesday, building up to a simulated game on Sunday. Patterson said that he would not travel with the team on its weekend road trip.

Signing announced: The Nationals announced on Sunday that they had signed shortstop Luis Castillo of the Dominican Republic.

The 17-year-old is a switch hitter, and signed a professional contract after working out with the team at its facility in San Cristobal.

Stat of the day: Backup catcher Jesus Flores made his 11th start of the season Sunday. He has reached base in each of the first 10.

Coming up: After an off-day on Monday, the Nationals begin a three-game series with the Pirates on Tuesday at RFK. The game starts at 7:05 p.m. ET, with Pittsburgh righty Shawn Chacon (1-0, 2.84) facing Washington lefty Mike Bacsik (1-1, 2.29).

Michael Phillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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