- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

ST. LOUIS — The revolving door that is the Washington Nationals’ roster spun around a few more times before last night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals. And don’t expect it to stop for any length of time this weekend.

“Now you see it, now you don’t,” manager Frank Robinson said.

Desperate for healthy pitchers, the Nationals yesterday purchased the contract of left-hander Mike O’Connor and gave him a difficult first assignment: The 25-year-old George Washington product made his major league debut against the powerful Cardinals.

O’Connor’s promotion from Class AAA New Orleans required two residual moves because he was not on Washington’s 40-man roster. That meant infielder Brendan Harris had to be optioned back to New Orleans and minor league outfielder Tyrell Godwin had to be designated for assignment.

Harris’ demotion proved to be a difficult decision. The Nationals were very pleased with the job he did since getting called up last week, particularly his willingness to try to learn how to catch in case of an emergency.

“This young man is special,” Robinson said. “He was learning about catching with no hesitation on his part. He’s really come a long way in a short period of time. And then to have to tell him this, it was very difficult. But we need pitching more than anything else right now.”

Harris said he understood the move and was told he would be back in the big leagues soon. Actually, it could happen really soon, because the Nationals are likely to make several more roster moves before the end of the weekend.

That’s because Washington has no idea who’s going to start Sunday’s series finale and likely won’t know for at least another day.

John Patterson, who was originally pegged to pitch last night’s series opener, won’t be ready to return from a strained forearm until mid-week at the earliest. That may even be optimistic.

“I don’t have a game plan until after [I throw a bullpen session tomorrow],” Patterson said. “We’ll try to set up a schedule after that.”

Zach Day, claimed off waivers from the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday, could be another option. Day, though, has complained of shoulder soreness and is more likely to start out in the bullpen (or perhaps even on the disabled list).

In all likelihood, the Nationals will try to cobble together nine innings out of their bullpen on Sunday, with Class AA Harrisburg right-hander Shawn Hill (who would be on three days’ rest) a last-resort option.

Nats ‘topic A’ with Selig

The process of selecting an owner for the Washington Nationals has dragged on in recent weeks in part because actions by the D.C. Council forced Major League Baseball to make changes to the agreement pertaining to the team’s sale.

Leading bidders in the last several days have been asked to review new purchase agreements containing provisions different from original versions drafted last year. Those provisions include the explanation of a cap on the city’s contribution toward construction of a new ballpark, which could leave the new owner responsible for cost overruns.

None of the leading bidders have objected to the new agreements, and the sale price, believed to be about $450 million, has not been debated, according to sources close to the process. Industry sources said MLB commissioner Bud Selig may be evaluating which group is most willing to meet the price with the fewest strings attached. The price would be more than $300 million higher than what MLB paid for the franchise in 2002.

MLB president Bob DuPuy, speaking at a press conference to announce a partnership between the league and InterContinental Hotels, told the Associated Press that a decision will come within days.

Selig is said to be torn between a group led by the family of local real estate executive Ted Lerner, and a team headed by local businessmen Fred Malek and Jeffrey Zients. Indianapolis radio mogul Jeff Smulyan is also still in the running, sources said.

“I do think the commissioner is very close. I will tell you it is topic A in his conversations with us,” said DuPuy, who added that a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Nationals’ new ballpark likely will take place on Thursday.

DuPuy added the league plans to have other league owners vote on the sale when they meet in New York on May 17 and 18.

Extra bases

Cristian Guzman went 1-for-3 as designated hitter yesterday during a camp game at Nationals’ extended spring training in Viera, Fla. Guzman is attempting to return from a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder. …

By designating Godwin for assignment, Washington now has 10 days to either trade or release the outfielder. If he passes through waivers unclaimed, he could be outrighted to Class AAA New Orleans.

Staff writer Tim Lemke contributed to this article from Washington.

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