Notes: Fick looks to bounce back

Notes: Fick looks to bounce back

WASHINGTON -- Outfielder/first baseman Robert Fick is off to one of the slowest starts of his Major League career. Entering Monday's action, he is hitting .207 with four RBIs.

Fick said his slow start has nothing to with the fact that his mother, Gloria, has terminal lung cancer.

"Of course, [my mother's illness] has affected me, but the locker room and the baseball field is where I get my relief, so I don't want to blame my mother's illness on my slow start," Fick said. "I have 82 at-bats and if I have a couple of big games in a row, the next thing you know, I'm hitting .230. I don't have enough at-bats to worry about that kind of stuff. There is a lot of season left."

In fact, Fick feels that he is getting his swing back after going 3-for-7 in his last two games against the Blue Jays. He had been under the Mendoza line for most of the season.

"I think I got something that is there. I'm going to start hitting the ball like I'm capable of and try to hold my weight around here," he said.

Fick gave an update on his mother and said she is not doing well and "is days away before she passes. She is real bad right now. I wish I was home with her. She wouldn't want that. She wouldn't know it would be me there, anyway."

Fick has not ruled out being put on the bereavement list soon. If that happens, Fick will become the second member of the Nationals to be placed on the bereavement list this year. Last month, closer Chad Cordero was put on the list because he wanted to be with his ailing grandmother, Josie.

"I cry everyday when I start thinking about it," Fick said.

Seeing the man: First baseman Dmitri Young saw and hugged Tigers manager Jim Leyland before Monday's game. Leyland told Young that getting released by the Tigers was the best thing that happened to Young. Leyland felt that Young, who is on probation for domestic violence, was able to straighten out his life after Detroit let him go.

"It was not going to work [in Detroit]," Leyland said. "He got his life straightened out and I couldn't be happier. I was kidding with him earlier today. I said, 'The way you are hitting now is what I thought you were going to hit for me'. But the timing wasn't right [in Detroit]."

Young led the Nationals in hitting and on-base percentage entering Monday's action.

"It has come full circle. The past is the past. The Tigers have a good team this year and I'm hitting the ball again," Young said. "I was able to get everything back together, but I still wanted to play in the World Series. I may get my chance in the next few years."

Injury report: The Nationals reinstated left-hander Mike O'Connor from the 60-day disabled list and optioned him to Double-A Harrisburg. To make room for O'Connor on the 40-man roster, right-hander Ryan Wagner was transferred from the 15-day to the 60-day DL.

O'Connor, who will pitch on Wednesday, made two rehabilitation starts for Harrisburg last week. He went a combined seven innings and gave up two runs. O'Connor, 26, began the year on the 15-day DL after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow Nov. 7, 2006, when a small cartilage defect was discovered.

"We are going to let him go out there and pitch and we're going to see where he fits," manager Manny Acta said of O'Connor. "Obviously, we still have a bunch of guys rehabbing and guys are up here pitching decent and we're going to have to make decisions pretty soon, but he's obviously part of the future here."

Right-hander Shawn Hill (sore left shoulder and right elbow) played catch on Monday from 90 feet and didn't feel any pain. He is tentatively scheduled to play catch on Tuesday and Wednesday, too.

Luis Ayala (right elbow reconstruction ) pitched two shutout innings for Triple-A Columbus on Monday night. He threw 24 pitches and struck out two batters.

Right-hander John Patterson (sore right elbow and biceps) will pitch on Thursday for Potomac and the goal is to not worry about his velocity, but locate the ball much better than he did in his last start.

Jason Bergman (sore right elbow) will pitch for Columbus on Wednesday, while Jerome Williams (labrum tear) will pitch for Harrisburg on Wednesday.

The Minor Leagues: Acta said there hasn't been any talk about promoting Brandon Watson to the big leagues. Watson, who is with Columbus, just finished a 43-game hitting streak, which is an International League record. However, sources indicated recently that Watson could be a September call-up, maybe earlier.

"He has to keep it up because we haven't talked about it but that doesn't mean what he's doing is not being noticed," Acta said.

Maxwell out: Class A Potomac outfielder Justin Maxwell has been placed on the seven-day disabled list because of staph infections on the right side of his body and left knee.

Maxwell said by phone late Monday night that he received the marks on his body while playing for Class A Hagerstown, but the injuries became worse last week with Potomac.

"[The infections] occurred while we were on the road," Maxwell said.

Maxwell is currently taking antibiotics and is expected to be off the DL after the Carolina League All-Star break.

Maxwell is considered by many to be the best all-around player in the Nationals' Minor League system. Before joining Potomac, Maxwell hit .301 with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs for Hagerstown in 56 games. He has played three games for Potomac and is 7-for-13 (.538) with two RBIs.

Stat of the day: Entering Monday's action, the Nationals' pitching staff has a 4.05 ERA when facing teams that feature the designated hitter.

Did you know? Fick hit the last home run at Tiger Stadium on Sept. 27, 1999. It was an eighth-inning grand slam against the Royals. The Nationals have won four consecutive road series, including the three-game series against the Orioles.

Coming up: The Nationals play the second game of a three-game series against the Tigers on Tuesday night at 7:05 ET. Washington right-hander Jason Simontacchi will face Detroit right-hander Chad Durbin.

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