Nationals struggle to fill rotation vs. Cards

Friday, April 28, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- The Washington Nationals purchased the contract of left-hander Mike O'Connor from their Triple-A New Orleans affiliate on Thursday in time to make the start against the St. Louis Cardinals.

They still don't have a starter, though, for Sunday.

Manager Frank Robinson said he'd assess the situation after the first two games of a four-game series. He said there was a good chance the series finale would be a bullpen-by-committee game, although another option is Zach Day, claimed off waivers from Colorado on Wednesday.

Robinson said the Sunday starter definitely would not come from the minor leagues. He said the starter could be anyone on the staff with the exception of closer Chad Cordero.

But Robinson said the situation was short of "crisis mode."

"This is hold the damage mode," Robinson said. "We need to get through this series with some quality pitching and at least win a couple of these games."

Day, who's expected to join the team today, is back with the Nationals after going to the Rockies last season in a trade for Preston Wilson. But he has muscle spasms in the back of his shoulder and might have to go on the 15-day disabled list.

The Nationals made room for O'Connor by optioning infielder Brendan Harris to New Orleans. They made room on the 40-man roster by designating outfielder Tyrell Godwin for assignment.

O'Connor, 25, had a 2.41 ERA and no record in four starts at New Orleans, his first experience above Single A. Last year he was the organization's minor league pitcher of the year with a 10-11 record and 3.54 ERA at Single-A Potomac.

O'Connor was pitching on three days' rest as a fill-in for John Patterson, who is skipping a turn in the rotation because of a strained muscle in his right forearm. Robinson said right now there are no plans to place Patterson on the DL.

Optioning Harris, who was 1-for-8 in seven games, leaves the Nationals without an emergency catcher. Robinson said the team would bring him back to the major leagues at its next opportunity.

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