- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2005

MIAMI — Marlon Byrd arrived in Washington on May14 believing he could make a significant contribution to the Nationals.

Yesterday, he was shipped off to the minor leagues after spending much of the last three weeks wasting away on the bench.

The Nationals optioned the struggling Byrd to Class AAA New Orleans, a somewhat surprising move, and replaced him with well-traveled outfielder Matt Cepicky.

Byrd did not take the news well. He already was preparing for yesterday’s game against the Florida Marlins when he was summoned into manager Frank Robinson’s office. Upon learning he was being sent down, Byrd said nothing. He walked out of Robinson’s office, hurriedly packed his bags, declined to talk to reporters and left.

Robinson was not pleased with Byrd’s actions.

“That’s about as bad as I’ve seen anyone take it,” he said. “I would like for someone to be a bit more receptive to what we’re saying. … He had an attitude when he came in, he had an attitude while he was here and he had an attitude when he left.”

Acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for outfielder Endy Chavez, Byrd got off to a hot start with the Nationals but cooled off over time. He was just 5-for-38 over his last 14 games and had seen his playing time dwindle after Washington traded for Preston Wilson.

Overall, Byrd hit .243 with no homers and 16 RBI in 51 games with the Nationals. The club would like him to work on his hitting stroke in New Orleans — he continues to struggle to catch up to inside fastballs — and plans to recall him when rosters expand in September. That is, if he and Robinson can patch things up.

Cepicky, meanwhile, gives Robinson another semi-experienced player off the bench. His career average in four previous stints (totaling 76 games) with the Nationals is just .225, but he has shown he can hit off the bench and went 5-for-18 with three doubles and three RBI when he was called up last month.

Upon being outrighted to New Orleans two weeks ago, Cepicky could have elected to become a free agent. But Robinson encouraged him to stay with the organization, and the 27-year-old outfielder obliged.

“Frank’s always been good to me, has treated me very well,” Cepicky said. “I have all the respect in the world for Frank. When he comes to you and says he’d like for you to stay, I stay.”

Shoulder plagues Schneider

Catcher Brian Schneider was a late scratch from the Nationals’ lineup yesterday with tendinitis in his right shoulder.

Schneider, who had started 12 of Washington’s last 13 games, has an inflamed shoulder, according to team physician Bruce Thomas. He may undergo an MRI once the club returns home this week, but he said yesterday he doesn’t believe the injury is serious.

“I’ll be all right,” Schneider said. “It’s just overuse.”

Backup Gary Bennett started in Schneider’s place yesterday and performed well, going 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. He had not seen much action lately, with Robinson wanting to give the bulk of the at-bats to Schneider.

Extra bases

Robinson also gave a pair of veterans, Vinny Castilla and Brad Wilkerson, time off yesterday. Castilla continues to struggle at the plate and with a bad knee — he has just three hits in his last 30 at-bats. Wilkerson, meanwhile, has battled a variety of ailments while playing in a team-high 99 games this year. “Wilky’s played a lot,” Robinson said. “An awful lot.” Both players did enter the game late for defensive purposes. …

Cristian Guzman snapped a 2-for-30 slump by going 2-for-2 and reaching base all four times he came up yesterday. “I try,” the much-maligned shortstop said. “Every day I try. I don’t care about going 0-for-4 or 4-for-4. Every time I play, I try to do something for my team.”

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