The Nationals have designated struggling left-hander Mike Hinckley for assignment and purchased the contract of veteran Ron Villone from Class AAA Syracuse, the club’s latest attempt to try to patch together a reliable big-league bullpen.
Hinckley, who didn’t allow an earned run in 14 appearances last September, was far less effective this season. Though he posted a respectable 4.66 ERA, he put 20 men on base in only 9 2/3 innings, issuing 11 walks. Things came to a head last night when he failed to retire either batter he faced in relief. He allowed an RBI single to Rafael Furcal, then walked in another run with a 3-2 fastball to Orlando Hudson that hit the backstop on the fly.
The 26-year-old was out of minor-league options, so he was designated for assignment. The Nationals have 10 days to either trade him or pass him through waivers. If no other club claims Hinckley, he can either report to Syracuse or become a free agent. Based on the way most in the organization seem to feel about him now, I suspect we’ve seen the last of him.
Villone, 39, has 14 years of big-league experience with 11 different organization. The left-hander owns a career 56-59 record with a 4.75 ERA in 654 games (93 of them starts). Signed by the Nationals to a minor-league contract on April 11, he had a 2.35 ERA and .160 opponents batting average in eight appearances with Syracuse.