- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 10, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS — Dmitri Young and Cristian Guzman are drawing attention for their offensive performances, but it wasn’t long ago that both Washington Nationals players looked horrid at the plate.

On May 7, Young’s batting average bottomed out at .224. His Achilles tendon was barking, and manager Manny Acta decided to give him five days off to recover.

Since then, the veteran first baseman has been among the most best hitters in baseball. He entered last night’s game against the Minnesota Twins with a .507 average, three homers and 19 RBI since returning from his injury. His .337 season average ranked second in the National League, behind only Colorado Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday (.355).

Acta isn’t surprised, given the 33-year-old’s track record.

“The fact is, he’s going to hit around .300,” the manager said. “That’s what he’s done his whole career. He’s going to continue to have good at-bats. I really believe the reason he struggled earlier was because his Achilles wasn’t 100 percent.”

As good as Young has been, Guzman has been even better.

The 29-year-old shortstop entered last night’s game hitting .513 (20-for-39) with five extra-base hits over his last nine games. That left his season average at .339, which would rank ahead of Young if not for the games he has missed.

Players must have at least 3.1 plate appearances per team game to be listed in the league batting race.

Pitchers progressing

Jason Bergmann and Jerome Williams each threw well during bullpen sessions yesterday afternoon and are closer to returning from the disabled list.

Bergmann threw all four of his pitches during his second mound session since going on the DL with right elbow inflammation and was pleased with his performance.

“The stuff was there,” he said. “It was good. … I’d be happy if that was my normal side bullpen [and he wasn’t hurt]. I think we’re getting close.”

Bergmann is likely to go to one of the Nationals’ minor league affiliates soon to throw a simulated game and then begin an actual rehab assignment.

Williams, meanwhile, will join Class AA Harrisburg later this week after looking sharp in the bullpen yesterday.

“No pain, no problems,” said the right-hander, who is on the DL with a strained shoulder. “I feel strong.”

Meanwhile, John Patterson continues to throw at Class A Potomac and reports no problems with his injured arm. Only Shawn Hill, still waiting for his non-throwing shoulder to heal, has yet to throw. That means the Nationals could be within two weeks or so of getting most of their Opening Day rotation back.

Extra bases

Jesus Flores started behind the plate, giving Brian Schneider a night off. The rookie catcher might normally have been fazed to go up against Twins ace Johan Santana, but the two actually know each other well from their time playing winter ball in Venezuela together.

“He’s not intimidated,” Acta said. “Whether he’s going to be good or not, we’ll see. But he’s not intimidated.” …

Tony Batista made his second career start at first base last night. Young served as the designated hitter.

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