Speigner relegated back to bullpen

TORONTO — Levale Speigner’s up-and-down rookie season has landed him back in the bullpen.

Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta said Speigner will have his next turn in the rotation skipped, taking advantage of Thursday’s scheduled off-day in the District. Whether the 26-year-old returns to the rotation after that remains to be seen, but for now, he will be available to pitch out of the bullpen.

Speigner, a Rule 5 draftee who was thrust into a starting role he probably wasn’t suited for, impressed the club last weekend when he outdueled two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana in Minnesota. But he regressed during Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays, allowing seven runs on 10 hits through only 31/3 innings.

Afterward, Speigner (whose ERA has risen to 8.76) was down on himself, which Acta thinks was understandable.

“Just a little bit of frustration because he came from a very good outing obviously,” the manager said. “And he probably feels like he took a step back. I understand how he feels, but that’s part of the game.”

Speigner, who posted a 3.77 ERA in 12 relief appearances before injuries forced him into the rotation, said he has no problem with Acta’s decision.

“Like I’ve said, I want to win,” he said. “I want this team to win. Whatever I can do to give us the best chance to win, I want to do that.”

Watson sets mark

Columbus outfielder Brandon Watson recorded a hit in his 43rd straight game yesterday, breaking an International League record that had stood for 95 years.

The 25-year-old Watson, who was the Nationals’ Opening Day center fielder in 2006, singled to right-center in his third at-bat in a game played in Ottawa. With that, he bested the previous IL record hit streak of 42, set by Rochester’s Jack Lelivelt in 1912.

Next step for hurlers?

Injured pitchers John Patterson, Jason Bergmann and Mike O’Connor all are likely to continue their minor league rehab assignments Wednesday.

The three hurlers’ next starts aren’t scheduled yet, but all three pitched Friday and thus would be ready to return Wednesday on normal rest. Patterson, on the disabled list with a nerve problem in his throwing arm, will remain at Class A Potomac. Bergmann, who has inflammation in his right elbow, will again pitch for Class AAA Columbus. O’Connor, coming back from offseason left elbow surgery, will start for Class AA Harrisburg.

Right-hander Jerome Williams (right shoulder strain), who threw three innings for Harrisburg on Friday, will pitch either Wednesday or Thursday. Reliever Luis Ayala, still at Columbus, is scheduled to pitch tonight, then take tomorrow off before throwing back-to-back days.

Church sits

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