- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2007

ST. LOUIS — Despite their best efforts to keep their makeshift rotation together while four starters are on the disabled list, the Washington Nationals might be forced into making a change this week.

Manager Manny Acta said Levale Speigner’s spot no longer is safe after the rookie right-hander was roughed up by the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night for eight runs in 31/3 innings.

“In the middle of the week, we’re probably going to make a decision on that,” the manager said yesterday.

Speigner, who has failed to pitch into the fifth inning in any of his three starts and has seen his ERA skyrocket to 8.39, is scheduled to make his next start Friday against the San Diego Padres. But it appears the 26-year-old either will be demoted back to the bullpen or perhaps placed on waivers.

Because Speigner was selected in the Rule 5 draft, he can’t be sent to the minors without first being offered back to his old club (the Minnesota Twins) or any other team willing to put him on its 25-man roster. He pitched fairly well out of the bullpen through the season’s first six weeks, but there might no longer be a spot for him there because of the emergence of Saul Rivera and Winston Abreu.

The Nationals don’t have nearly as many options when it comes to replacement starters. John Patterson, Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann and Jerome Williams all are on the major league disabled list, and Joel Hanrahan and Emiliano Fruto are both on the Class AAA DL.

Acta ruled out Billy Traber as a possibility, saying he prefers to leave the left-hander in the bullpen.

“I have other options, but it’s just that they’re not the best,” the manager said. “We’re going to have to think hard on this one and make what’s best for us. I’m not saying the kid is out of it yet. We’ll make a decision.”

Young injures back

Dmitri Young left yesterday’s game following the fifth-inning rain delay because of a lower back strain suffered when he collided with Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen, but he was hopeful he would play tomorrow against Los Angeles.

Rolen was hustling down the line after hitting a grounder to third in the fourth inning. Young stepped back to receive Ryan Zimmerman’s one-hop throw, and Rolen wound up tripping over him as both players went sprawling to the ground.

Hill feeling good

One day after throwing off a mound for the first time since going on the disabled list with injuries to his left shoulder and right elbow, Hill said he felt good and is getting closer to returning to the rotation.

He’s scheduled to throw again tomorrow, after which he could be ready to pitch in a simulated game and then begin a minor league rehab assignment.

Hill is 3-3 with a 2.70 ERA in eight starts.

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