Notes: Escobar on way back to bigs

Notes: Escobar on way back to bigs

MIAMI -- Outfielder Alex Escobar is expected to play a few games for Triple-A Columbus before being called up to the big leagues. Manager Manny Acta said there is nothing wrong with Escobar's health.

Escobar started in center field against Charlotte on Thursday and went 0-for-5 in his first game for Columbus. Escobar has already played five games for Double-A Harrisburg and was 3-for-16 (.188) with an RBI.

According to Acta, Escobar will most likely be in left field once he returns to the big-league club, while Ryan Church will move over to center. Church did a good job in center when Nook Logan missed more than a month because of a left foot injury.

In fact, the team feels, according to general manager Jim Bowden, that Escobar needs more at-bats before he is called up.

Escobar's presence also means that the Logan/Ryan Langerhans platoon will be over. Escobar has yet to play a Major League game this season because of shoulder and ankle problems.

Injury report: Shawn Hill said his right elbow is feeling better after playing catch the last few days. So good, in fact, that he tentatively plans to have a bullpen session on Sunday. If things go well, he could have bullpen sessions every other day or every two days.

"No pain, so far," Hill said.

Minor lineup switch: Acta has decided that Church will hit fifth behind Dmitri Young against right-handed pitching, while Austin Kearns will hit sixth. However, with a left-hander on the mound, Kearns will hit fifth and Church will drop down a notch.

Acta implemented this plan against the Brewers last Saturday and it appeared to work in a 5-4 victory.

That night, with right-hander Jeff Suppan starting, Church went 3-for-3, while Kearns drove in two runs with a double.

"I feel that we can [make the lineup switch more often]," Acta said. "We need a couple of more guys to get going. I'm not worried. They have a track record. They have hit before. With Kearns, [Felipe] Lopez, [Ryan] Zimmerman, Church and the addition of Escobar, when he comes back, I think our offense will be better."

It starts with Manny: Despite the Nationals' 36-52 record, Bowden said recently that the Nationals have made progress and it starts with the hiring of Acta.

"I think progress has been made in a lot of areas. There are a lot of positive things that have happened," Bowden said. "First of all, I think we've established that we hired one of the best young managers in the game. We made the right selection. I think it's very evident by the way he has handled the players, the way he runs a game, the way he has handled the media, the fans and his relationship with the front office. We couldn't be happier with our selection. To build a championship club, it starts with the field manager. That's one of the brightest spots here."

On the field: The Nationals were not able to take batting practice at the Dolphin Stadium Field on Thursday night because of a rain storm, but the team ended up hitting in the cages. The Nationals pitchers did manage to get their work done in the bullpen, however.

"We got the bullpen sides done, which was the important thing before the rain came. We were able to hit enough in the cages," Acta said. "We would have loved to hit on the field and work on some fundamentals, but you can't control [the rain]."

Up next: Jason Bergmann (1-5, 3.47) will take the mound on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET against the Marlins. He will be opposed by Dontrelle Willis (7-7, 4.72).

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