- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Last season, the Washington Nationals committed the fewest errors in franchise history with 92.

The Nationals surpassed that total with 93 after three miscues in Sunday’s loss against the New York Mets. Entering last night’s game against the Atlanta Braves at RFK Stadium, the Nationals were tied with the Florida Marlins for the worst fielding percentage in the majors at .978.

“Well, we’ve got different people here, and those things happen,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “I don’t think you can put errors on one year to the next because there are different bounces. A lot of it is that we have a lot of new people coming in and out of the lineup. Things like that.”

The Nationals opened this season with a new left side of the infield — rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and veteran shortstop Royce Clayton. Alfonso Soriano is playing left field for the first time in his career after moving from second base. But Soriano has committed just eight errors to go with 19 assists.

The Nationals have had numerous players in center field, and right fielder Jose Guillen’s injury-plagued season forced Robinson to juggle that spot as well until the club traded for outfielder Austin Kearns.

“To be honest, I don’t know what’s the reason, because we have guys that can play defense here, and for some reason we seem to make a lot of errors,” said Jose Vidro, the injured second baseman and the team’s longest-tenured player. “It puts a lot of pressure on the pitching staff. Those errors should be outs.”

Another aspect of the team’s defensive problems is how few double plays the Nationals have turned — a league-worst 85. The San Diego Padres have turned the second fewest with 94 going into last night’s game.

“There’s nothing you can do about [the errors]. No one tries to make them,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t think we’re that bad. You don’t really think about it. You make errors, and there’s nothing you can do about them once you make them. You just kind of move along and forget about them.”

Out for the season?

The Nationals are leaning toward shutting rookie right-hander Shawn Hill down for the rest of the season to try and clear out the tendinitis in his right elbow.

Hill, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since July 1, pitched three innings in a rehab assignment with Class AA Harrisburg on Friday. In six starts this season for the Nationals, Hill is 1-3 with a 4.66 ERA in 362/3 innings.

“We need to shut him down to get the soreness out,” Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said. “What we don’t want to have happen after all he’s been through in his career is we don’t want him to pitch through pain and now compensate with his shoulder and now all of a sudden blow his shoulder out. I’m not going to say we’ve officially shut him down for the year yet, because we’re not there yet. But there’s no point in him continuing to pitch through pain.”

Vidro on schedule

Vidro plans to return to the Nationals on Friday in Philadelphia after a three-game rehab assignment with Harrisburg.

Vidro, who has been on the DL since July 25, reports to Harrisburg today and expects to play the field in this rehab stint.

“I believe tomorrow I’ll stay in the field maybe five or six innings, and then Wednesday I’ll probably start playing nine innings and Thursday also,” he said.

On Sunday, Vidro was the designated hitter for Class A Potomac. He went 1-for-3 with a double and reached on an error.

Extra bases

Outfielder Kory Casto, one of the Nationals’ top prospects at Harrisburg, has been marked as the organization’s priority player to participate in November’s Arizona Fall League. Going into last night, Casto was hitting .283 with 20 home runs, 23 doubles and 74 RBI for the Senators. … The Nationals remain far apart in their negotiations with second-round draft pick Sean Black. If the right-hander, who is committed to play at Seton Hall, attends classes in a few weeks, the Nationals lose his rights, and he can re-enter the draft in three years.

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