- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 19, 2007

Jason Bergmann’s elbow was sore enough to necessitate a few days off, which means the Washington Nationals felt it was enough to necessitate a trip to the disabled list.

The Nationals placed the right-hander on the 15-day DL yesterday and made plans to purchase the contract of left-hander Mike Bacsik from Class AAA Columbus to start tonight’s game against the Baltimore Orioles.

The lack of a viable starter on the current roster played a role in the team’s decision to place Bergmann on the disabled list. Bergmann has some inflammation in his right elbow but is expected to return as soon as he eligible (which is May 31 since the move was retroactive to May 15).

“It’s not terribly serious, but we’ve got to do what’s best for the kid,” manager Manny Acta said. “Why push it? It’s early in the year. We’d rather have him miss two starts this early than have him miss 10 or 15 later on. We’re just going to be careful with him.”

Bergmann, who is 1-3 with a 2.76 ERA and has the lowest opponents’ batting average in the majors (.162), said he hoped to avoid the disabled list but understood the decision.

“I want to pitch,” he said. “I want to be healthy. If taking a couple extra days off is the key to that, so be it.”

Bergmann is the fourth member of Washington’s five-man Opening Day rotation to go to the disabled list, joining John Patterson (nerve irritation in right arm), Shawn Hill (left shoulder subluxation) and Jerome Williams (strained right shoulder).

With two relievers (Levale Speigner and Micah Bowie) already promoted to the rotation to compensate for all the injuries, the Nationals had no choice but to turn to their farm system for a healthy arm.

Bacsik, 29, gets the call tonight — his first big league appearance since 2004. The left-hander was 1-3 with a 4.00 ERA in 10 games for Columbus, but he went 11-0 with a 2.79 ERA last year for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Class AAA team and made a strong impression on the Nationals this spring.

Bench beefed up

The Nationals’ recent upturn has been fueled in part by a surge of clutch hits for the first time all season. One reason for that: Acta’s improved bench, which had been a major problem area for some time.

Two weeks ago, Washington’s bench included inexperienced players like Josh Wilson, Michael Restovich and Kory Casto. Not surprisingly, Nationals pinch-hitters had four hits in 57 at-bats.

Lately, the club’s bench has included veterans Ronnie Belliard, Dmitri Young (who returned to the lineup after nine games) and Tony Batista. The result: three pinch-hits in nine at-bats over the last six games.

Patterson progressing

Patterson threw on flat ground from 90 feet yesterday and said his arm felt good. He will continue to progress up to 120 feet, then throw off a mound, then go on a minor league rehab assignment before returning to the rotation.

“I don’t have any pain, so that’s good,” he said. “That’s the first step. The next step is getting some arm strength going.”

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