- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tony Armas Jr. has spent his entire major league career with the Washington Nationals franchise. Since he was acquired from the Boston Red Sox for a guy named Pedro Martinez in 1997, the right-hander has been counted on to blossom into an impact pitcher.

Those days appear to be at an end. Armas is no longer the promising young pitcher with the potential to carry a team. He’s become something of a lost cause, an arm to throw out there every fifth day but hardly the kind of pitcher a team can count on.

Nationals manager Frank Robinson’s feelings on the matter were clear even before Armas lasted just 31/3 innings last night in a 10-6 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

“Sometimes you’re with a … major-league ballclub for ‘X’ number of years and you keep waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting,” Robinson said yesterday afternoon. “And sooner or later, they say it’s time to go in another direction. … You can’t always wait for someone to reach their potential and develop into what you think they’re capable of doing.”

Robinson made sure to qualify that he wasn’t talking specifically about Armas (8-10) but about any player in such a situation. But there’s little doubt that the franchise has no real plans for the underperforming 28-year-old beyond next month.

A quick glance at his numbers this season explain why.

In early June, Armas looked like the Nationals’ most reliable starter. On June 9, his record was 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA. In his last 11 starts, he is 2-7 with a 7.95 ERA.

“I’ve been waiting two years for this, to feel the way I’m feeling right now, and things are not going my way,” said Armas, who battled shoulder injuries in 2004 and 2005. “It’s tough. Mentally, it gets you. But I’m the only one who can fix this. No one else can do it.”

He might want to start with keeping his pitch count down. Five nights after going just 12/3 innings against the Florida Marlins, he was yanked by Robinson after recording just one out in the fourth.

At that point, the Phillies had already scored five runs on eight hits and racked up Armas’ pitch count to 82.

“It was not the performance we were counting on him to give us,” Robinson said.

In some ways, that was actually an improvement for Washington (55-76), which had seen its starting pitcher fail to make it out of the third inning in five of the previous eight games. At least Armas made it into the fourth.

The Nationals, of course, were looking for more than that. So too was Armas, who if nothing else is trying to put together a solid finish to an otherwise frustrating season.

“It would be good if he did,” Robinson said. “But one month in September doesn’t make up for five months that you have not put it together.”

Armas’ troubles last night began right from the start, when he opened by giving up back-to-back singles to Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino. A two-out, two-run single by Pat Burrell prolonged the rally, and by the time Armas finally retreated to the dugout, he already had thrown 36 pitches and spoiled any remote possibility of lasting into the sixth or beyond.

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