Bowden keeping track of Nats' house

Bowden keeping track of Nats' house

WASHINGTON -- Before Saturday's game against San Francisco, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden touched base with reporters on a number of housekeeping topics regarding the team.

At the top of the list of questions was what will happen to the Nationals' catching situation once Paul Lo Duca returns from a broken right hand. Lo Duca will be sent out on a rehab assignment Sunday to Class A Potomac and then Triple-A Columbus for a couple of games apiece.

However, his replacement, Jesus Flores, has been the Nationals' most consistent hitter this season -- Flores is batting .329 with two home runs and 16 RBIs.

Bowden gave no indication what Flores' and Lo Duca's roles would be when the latter returns, but he praised Flores for his play so far this season.

"The way Flores is playing, obviously it's an easy decision for Manny," Bowden said. "Certainly, Paul's a guy who can hit .300, and it's something we'll deal with at the time when Paul's healthy and comes back in there."

After addressing questions about the team's best offensive producer this season, Bowden turned his attention to the rest of the team, which hasn't had nearly the same success. When asked about the team's poor offensive production -- the Nationals were last in the league in hitting headed into Saturday -- Bowden said he wasn't pleased, pointing to a roster decimated by injuries as a likely cause.

"Nick Johnson, Austin Kearns and Ryan Zimmerman are the 3-4-5 hitters at the top of the lineup, so when they're not there, you're not going to have the same ability to score runs as you would if they were there every day," Bowden said. "You take everybody's 3-4-5 hitters out of the lineup and they're not going to score runs."

Despite the team's struggles this season, Bowden said he's not thinking about decimating the team at the trade deadline. The veteran GM said his team would only be open to trades that would "make our team better" both at present and at the Minor League level.

"We're building, we're not going to tear down," Bowden said, though he didn't rule out making trades that would bring in prospects or strengthen the team for the future. "Certainly, any time we have a chance to improve our long-term organization, we're going to do that."

The possibility of some of that long-term help coming from this year's First-Year Player Draft was something that Bowden said excited him

Bowden singled out second-round pick Destin Hood as a player who could be a star for the Nationals soon. Hood signed to play football in the fall with Alabama, but Bowden said in talking with Hood, he's convinced the Mobile, Ala., native wants to pursue a career in baseball.

"He wants to play baseball," Bowden said. "I believe him."

Bowden described Hood as having "Barry Bonds-level eyes" and "Vladimir Guerrero-bat speed and power."

When Bowden was asked about the signability of Hood and other high-round Draft picks, he made his position clear.

"If a player wants to play, he'll play, that's been my experience," Bowden said. "Good players chase the game, not the money, and the money comes. The ones that don't sign, that leave, they're in it for the wrong reason."

Pitching matchup
WSH: RHP Garrett Mock (0-0, -.-- ERA)
It was revealed Friday through baseball sources that Mock will be called up from Triple-A Columbus on Sunday to pitch in place of the injured Odalis Perez. Mock is 3-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 11 appearances this season, finally free of a left knee injury that had hampered his progress since he sustained it in late 2006. Mock has never pitched in a Major League game.

SF: LHP Barry Zito (1-9, 5.87 ERA)
Zito has thrived against three Nationals who have amassed more than 10 at-bats against him: Aaron Boone (.083, 1-for-12), Cristian Guzman (.050, 1-for-20) and Dmitri Young (.200, 5-for-25). But Ronnie Belliard (.367, 11-for-30) has enjoyed success against him.

After facing Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez on Saturday, the Nationals will have faced 16 southpaws in their last 31 games. Zito, another lefty, looms Sunday. ... A hit Saturday night meant Flores tied Zimmerman's mark for longest hit streak by a National this season. Flores has hit safely in nine straight. ... Guzman is currently third in the Majors with 20 doubles.

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On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• MASN 2

On radio
• WWWT 1500

Up next
• Monday: Nationals (Tyler Clippard, 0-0, -.--) vs. Giants (Matt Cain, 2-4, 4.67), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Nationals (John Lannan, 4-6, 3.47) at Pirates (Paul Maholm, 4-5, 4.48), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Nationals (Tim Redding, 6-3, 4.15) at Pirates (Ian Snell, 2-6, 5.65), 7:05 p.m. ET

Zachary Osterman is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.