Ayala is on the 25-man roster for the first time since September 2005. He had missed more than a year because of bone spurs in his right elbow and right elbow reconstruction surgery. The team is planning to take it slow with Ayala. He will pitch in the middle innings and then work his way to being a setup guy. It is doubtful he will pitch in back-to-back games in the early going.
"I didn't like last night's game very much," Bowden said. "Luis can give us an inning tonight. We have an off-day [Thursday]."
Bringing Ayala back wasn't the only move the Nationals made in the pitching department. They designated right-handers Winston Abreu and Levale Speigner for assignment, recalled right-hander Chris Schroder and outrighted right-hander Jerome Williams to Double-A Harrisburg.
Abreu and Speigner were hit hard during their time with Washington. Abreu, who came out of the bullpen, gave up 17 earned runs in 24 innings. Speigner is the most interesting of the two. He is a Rule 5 Draft pick. If Speigner clears waivers, the Nationals can offer him back to the Twins for $25,000. Bowden acknowledged that he is currently in discussions with the Twins, but wouldn't comment any further.
Speigner, 26, went 2-3 with 8.77 ERA in 19 games for the Nationals. His downfall began when he was put in the starting rotation in late May. He had an 11.79 ERA in six starts.
"We are going to try to get people out here," Bowden said. "We have been more than fair in this development, but you have to take advantage of it."
Schroder was a dominating pitcher for Triple-A Columbus, going 2-2 with a 1.64 ERA in 26 games. He also fanned 12.3 batters per nine innings pitched. This will be Schroder's second chance in the big leagues. He played in 21 games last year for Washington and had a 6.35 ERA. Schroder is a guy that is known to rely too much on his fastball. The team is hoping that his changeup can help him be more consistent.
Williams, who was on the disabled list because of a right labrum tear before being sent down, had confidence issues during his time with the Nationals and it showed on the mound. Williams was 0-5 with a 7.20 ERA.
Back in the big leagues: During his 43-game hitting streak in the Minors, center fielder Brandon Watson received a call from longtime friend Eric Davis, who told him that Watson was forcing the Nationals to look at him and consider promoting him to the big leagues. The Nationals took a hard look and promoted him on Wednesday. Watson will be in the starting lineup for at least the rest of the week, which means the Ryan Langerhans/Nook Logan platoon is being shelved.
"It feels great to be back in the Major Leagues," Watson said. "You get the call when you least expect it. I was not expecting anything."
Watson vows to be more relaxed on the field than he was as the Opening Day center fielder in 2006. That year, he was demoted in April because of lack of production. Watson said he was nervous last season.
"I'm going to come out and have a good time and play my game," Watson said. "Whatever happens, happens. I'm going to try to get on base and score some runs."
Stat of the day: Entering Wednesday's action, Nationals pinch-hitters are 16-for-102 (.157) with 10 RBIs.
Did you know: The Nationals are 7-8 against American League teams this season.
Injury report: Right-hander Jason Bergmann (sore right elbow) had his final rehab start for Triple-A Columbus on Wednesday night. He pitched four innings and gave up a run on three hits against Rochester. Bergman threw 58 pitches, 34 for strikes.
Bergmann will be activated from the disabled list next week and pitch against the Braves on Tuesday in Atlanta.
Thinking about Sammy: Rangers designated hitter Sammy Sosa hit his 600th home run against the Cubs on Wednesday night, and no one was happier than Nationals bullpen catcher Julian Martinez, who held the same title with the Cubs from 1998-2004 and was Sosa's personal assistant during that time.
"I'm really happy for him, especially after what he went through," Martinez said. "He has 600, so now he is going to be more relaxed. I'm going to celebrate for him."
Sosa is having a great comeback season with the Rangers and is on pace to drive in 100 runs. Asked what's the difference between this year and his season with the Orioles in 2004, Martinez said: "It's more mental than physical. He took a year off in 2005 and he came back prepared -- physically and mentally."
Sosa and Martinez talk to each other on a regular basis.
Coming up: The Nationals have the day off on Thursday and then play a three-game series against the Indians starting Friday night. The last time these two teams met was in 2002, with the Expos taking two out of three games.
On Friday, Washington left-hander Micah Bowie will face Cleveland right-hander Fausto Carmona.