- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2005

Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden pulled the trigger on his first significant in-season trade last night when he dealt ineffective outfielder Endy Chavez to the Philadelphia Phillies for center fielder Marlon Byrd.

Bowden said Byrd, 27, will report to the Nationals today. By bringing Byrd straight to the nation’s capital, must make another roster move today. It could involve a pitcher, with Zach Day, Tomo Ohka, and Jon Rauch the leading candidates to be sent down. Outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds and utilityman Henry Mateo also are possibilities.

“As I’ve said before, I did not think Endy Chavez was ever going to do it here,” Bowden said. “We tried in spring training and we tried it this last time out. I worked hard to try to make an even deal, and I wasn’t able to do that until today in my opinion.”

If Byrd can be anything like his 2003 rookie season, the Nationals received the better of the deal. That year Byrd batted .303 with 28 doubles, four triples, seven home runs and 45 RBI in 135 games.

He finished fourth in voting for National League Rookie of the Year, ranking among rookie leaders in hits (second with 150), runs (second with 86), multi-hit games (second with 41), batting (third at .303) and on-base percentage (third at .366).

Last year Byrd began the season as the Phillies’ leadoff hitter but was optioned to Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on June 20. This spring Byrd lost the center field job to 37-year-old Kenny Lofton.

“Marlon has one year of history in the big leagues with success and one year of failure,” Bowden said. “I’m not promising anything, but I’ll tell you one thing: If you don’t take a shot on guys like this, then you’ll never be able to hit on deals like this.”

Chavez, who was the Montreal Expos’ primary center fielder in 2003 and 2004, was recalled from Class AAA New Orleans on May 3. In seven games with the Nationals, Chavez, 27, hit .222 in nine at-bats. As the Expos’ leadoff hitter in 2004, his on-base percentage was just .318 in 502 at-bats.

Robinson lacks ammo

Carrying 12 pitchers has never been Frank Robinson’s ideal roster scenario. The Nationals manager needs position players, and he needs them now.

In Friday’s error-plagued 6-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs, Robinson said he ran out of ammunition, literally, with available pinch-hitting options. Robinson was forced to let pitcher Esteban Loaiza hit in the seventh inning even though Loaiza’s night on the mound was over.

“I used two of my bullets in the sixth inning and was down to nothing,” Robinson said of his bench. “Dusty [Baker, Cubs manager] is over there hiding behind the pole and counting the shots: there’s one, there’s two, he’s got three more and then he will be out of them. He’ll be shooting blanks then.”

Robinson’s should have more ammunition in a week to 10 days, when veteran first baseman Wil Cordero is expected to return from the 15-day disabled list. Cordero underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee April 11 after injuring himself in the Nationals’ second game April 6 in Philadelphia.

The Nationals are going to run Cordero through some agility drills this week to determine his condition. Cordero says he feels fine. Last year he Cordero underwent surgery on both knees and played in only 27 games.

Cordero, 33, said the plan is for him do a minor league rehab stint and then rejoin the club. Cordero said his wife is expecting their third child any day now, and he would prefer to rehab closer to home, preferably at Class AA Harrisburg instead of Class AAA New Orleans.

“I’ll be ready pretty soon,” said Cordero, a .275 career hitter in his 13th major league season. As soon as that baby comes out, I want to be able to come back.”

The Nationals have carried 12 pitchers since Tuesday, when right-hander Claudio Vargas was recalled from New Orleans and Chavez was optioned back to New Orleans.

Robinson exhausted his resources in Friday night’s sixth inning when he used rookie outfielder Ryan Church and veteran utilityman Carlos Baerga as pinch hitters. Church delivered a run-scoring single that tied the game 2-2, but Baerga grounded out into an inning-ending, bases-loaded double play.

That left Robinson with only rookie third baseman Tony Blanco and catcher Brian Schneider at his disposal for later in the game. Robinson called on Blanco in the ninth inning, and he smacked a run-scoring double down the left-field line that cut the deficit to 6-3.

“I just feel like this ballclub, right now and this year, needs position players more so than they need the pitching because our starting pitchers have been pretty good going six or seven innings,” Robinson said.

Vidro optimistic

Jose Vidro, the Nationals’ three-time All-Star second baseman, was understandably demoralized when an additional MRI on Friday revealed a partial tear of the peroneal tendon outside the ankle that will sideline him until June.

Vidro, who injured his ankle May 4 sliding home in a game in Los Angeles, declared he will return quicker than expected,

Dr. Tim Kremchek, the Nationals’ senior medical consultant, examined Vidro on Friday in Cincinnati and said he would be out another three weeks.

“I know that I’m going to be back before three weeks,” Vidro said. “That’s how I think about it, and I’m not going to let myself down. It’s a very tough situation for me because I want to be out there with this ballclub.”

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