MacDougal aims to prove he belongs

MacDougal aims to prove he belongs

PHILADLEPHIA -- Mike MacDougal didn't worry himself with the intricacies of his contract with the Nationals.

"I really didn't do that much, my agent did all that," the veteran reliever said. "The goal has always been the same. I'm just trying to be more consistent throwing strikes. Pretty much staying within myself and worked on throwing my fastball."

The hard work paid off when, as expected, the Nationals selected MacDougal from Triple-A Syracuse and optioned catcher Luke Montz to Double-A Harrisburg on Thursday. MacDougal, who pitched in five games this year with the White Sox, had a pair of saves and a 3.24 ERA before getting word that he was headed back in the Major Leagues.

Over the course of nine seasons, MacDougal showed enough ability to make him an attractive find for the Nationals if only if he could regain the form that resulted in a pair of 20-plus save seasons with Kansas City, including 27 in 2003. The key as always will be his ability to pound the strike zone with his two-seam fastball and slider.

"He's a veteran and he'd had great success at times," acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He's always had the 'stuff' to be a back-of-the-bullpen-type guy in the Major Leagues.

"He needed a change in scenery. The people over there [in Chicago] agreed he needed a change of scenery. We had [Syracuse pitching coach Steve] McCatty straighten out a few things with his mechanics and delivery. He's shown he can throw more consistent strikes with both pitches and performed well enough to earn a chance to pitch up here."

For MacDougal, the goal has been to pull back from overthrowing. The right-handed reliever has had to tell himself to pull back off his two-seam fastball, which loses its sinking motion when he throws it too hard.

One thing was for sure, manager Manny Acta wasn't going to be shy in using his new reliever, and in the seventh inning Friday, Acta went to MacDougal for three hitters. The reliever gave up a single, hit a batter and notched a strikeout before his night was over.

"We're going to have to see him anyways," Acta said before the game. "We'll throw him out there and see what he brings to the table for us. We have to give him an opportunity to pound the strike zone and if he can throw enough strikes to help us."

Pitching matchup
WSH: RHP Shairon Martis (5-0, 4.86 ERA)
Martis started for the Nationals on Sunday and didn't have his best outing, lasting six-plus innings and giving up five runs. He had problems with his command throughout the game. In fact, Martis went into the fifth having thrown only 50 percent of his pitches for strikes.

PHI: LHP Cole Hamels (2-2, 4.68 ERA)
Hamels allowed two runs in six innings in Sunday's 5-4 victory in 11 innings over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He was in line for the win until Brad Lidge blew a save in the ninth. Hamels has been throwing the ball well lately. He is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his his last five starts. He pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings against the Nationals on April 28. He left that game in the fifth inning after spraining his left ankle.

After attending the birth of his daughter, Karis Elizabeth, catcher Josh Bard flew from Denver to Philadelphia and arrived two hours before game time. Bard, who missed Wednesday's game, said his third child is healthy and came in at seven pounds, four ounces. The veteran catcher went 1-for-3 with an RBI double Friday. ... Washington fell to 2-7 this year against Philadelphia and 1-3 at Citizens Bank Park. ... The Nationals have lost 13-of-15.

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On the Internet
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•  Gameday
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Up next
• Sunday: Nationals (John Lannan, 2-4, 4.11) at Phillies (Jamie Moyer, 3-5, 7.42), 1:35 p.m. ET
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Nationals (Craig Stammen, 0-1, 5.56) vs. Giants (Tim Lincecum, 4-1, 3.03), 7:05 p.m. ET

Mike Radano is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.