- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

This year is a fresh start for Potomac Nationals pitcher Dan Kolb in a couple of respects.

Daniel Joseph Kolb spent the past four seasons in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system. In 2003, Daniel Lee Kolb joined the organization and became the Brewers’ closer midway through the year, saving 60 games in two seasons before moving to Atlanta this offseason.

While Dan J. Kolb was pitching in places like Beloit, Wis., and Adelanto, Calif., he often was being mistaken for Dan L. Kolb.

“It was pretty neat. I’d get some of his mail — his fan mail would show up in my locker,” Kolb said. “I’d get cards that people wanted me to sign. I actually met him in spring training. He said, ‘If anybody approaches you, just go ahead and sign them.’ He’s a pretty cool dude.”

Dan J. Kolb was picked up by the Nationals organization in the offseason in the minor league portion of the Rule V draft. After being selected by the Brewers in the 24th round of the 2001 draft, Kolb spent his first three seasons in professional baseball moving back and forth from the starting rotation to the bullpen. He spent 2003 and 2004 at High Desert in the California League, but changing organizations could help Kolb as he tries to move closer to the majors.

“Yes, yes. I’m very excited about this move,” Kolb said. “I got Rule V-ed over here, and it’s a new start. I had a pretty good spring, and hopefully I can continue to keep going here during the season.”

Last season, he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen and is doing the same with Potomac. While Kolb has struggled with his control (eight walks in nine innings), he leads the Nationals with three saves. The right-handed Kolb and lefty Alex Morales appear to be the preferred options in manager Bob Henley’s closer-by-committee philosophy.

Kolb continues to cope with the mistaken identity.

“The thing is on the cards it says [Dan L. Kolb] is 6-7, and he’s got a full goatee,” the 6-foot-1, clean-shaven Kolb said. “But people kept coming up to me, and I’d tell them it wasn’t me, but I got tired of it, so when they asked me to sign them, I signed them.”

As for the mail, there wasn’t anything too crazy.

“I got a lot of fan mail. I got some Christmas cards. I was just waiting to get his paycheck. I wasn’t sending that back.”

Farm notes — Pitcher Oscar Lira replaced Chris Goodman, who was placed on the disabled list, in the Potomac bullpen. Lira was signed by the Expos in 2001 and made two appearances at Class A Brevard County last season. Infielder Ramon Castro, who logged 15 at-bats with Oakland last season before being released in September, took Brett Price’s roster spot.

Harrisburg added a pair of players from extended spring training who spent time with the Senators in 2004. Shortstop Josh Labandeira hit .270 with nine homers last year in Harrisburg before being called up to Montreal in September and going hitless in 14 at-bats. Outfielder Jason Belcher hit two home runs in 70 games for the Senators last season.

Nationals director of player development Adam Wogan said top prospect Mike Hinckley will throw in Florida this week and could be ready to join a full-season team — likely Harrisburg — in the next week to 10 days. While 2004 first-round pick Bill Bray needs more time, Wogan said 2004 second-round pick Erik San Pedro is on a similar timeline as Hinckley. San Pedro, a catcher, is expected to join Potomac.

New Orleans first baseman Larry Broadway is expected to miss two weeks with a strained right knee ligament. Savannah outfielder Marvin Lowrance, a seventh-round pick last season, is expected to be out until the middle of June with a broken knee cap.

One of the biggest surprises in the organization has been the play of Tyrell Godwin at Class AAA New Orleans. Godwin was selected by the Nationals in the major league portion of the Rule V draft this offseason. Washington traded pitcher Aaron Wideman to Toronto so it wouldn’t have to keep him on the major league roster all season like it does with fellow Rule V pickup Tony Blanco.

Most players selected in the Rule V draft aren’t ready for the big leagues, but Godwin is hitting .393 with six stolen bases for New Orleans. Wogan said he has “definitely opened some eyes” with his hot start and compared Godwin’s situation to Houston Astros outfielder Willy Tavares.

The Astros wanted to retain Tavares without keeping him in Houston, so they traded pitcher Jeriome Robertson to Cleveland for Tavares and Luke Scott. Taveras spent last season at Class AA Round Rock and won the Astros’ starting center fielder job this spring.

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