- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2007

MIAMI — Manny Acta has been watching Wily Mo Pena play for years, whether in the Dominican Winter League or from an opposing dugout in the major leagues.

The Washington Nationals manager, though, is finally watching the 25-year-old outfielder play on a daily basis, and he has learned something.

“He’s maturing as a hitter,” Acta said. “He’s using the whole field, which is something that he should know. He’s so strong that he doesn’t need to pull the ball to hit it out. He can go deep pole to pole.”

Since his Aug. 17 acquisition from the Boston Red Sox, Pena (a noted “pull” hitter) has shown a penchant to hit the ball to right field. He did in his first at-bat Monday night against the Florida Marlins, singling to right, and he did it again last night in his first at-bat.

Of course, Pena continues to jerk an occasional ball to left field with authority. He hit two home runs Monday night, giving him seven in his first 21 games with the Nationals.

That’s two more than Pena hit in 73 games with the Red Sox this season, but he believes there’s a simple reason for his increased production: He’s actually getting a chance to play every day instead of coming off the bench.

“When you play every day, you’re going to see a lot more pitches,” he said. “When you play one or two times a week, it’s much different. … I feel comfortable. I’m seeing the ball much better. And every pitch they throw me, I see much, much better.”

Acta is equally impressed with Pena’s glovework in left field, defying his reputation as a poor defensive player.

“I think two weeks, three weeks is a pretty good indication if somebody can handle the position,” Acta said. “By now, he would have at least had some bad routes out there or something. But he has played very well in left field. I’m impressed by the way his defense is. A lot has been made about his defense. I can live with a guy like him in left field the way he has played so far.”

Surgery for Patterson

John Patterson will have surgery tomorrow to repair the damaged nerve in his right arm that bothered him all season.

Patterson, who made only seven starts this season before going on the disabled list with compression of the radial nerve in his throwing arm, will have the procedure done by specialist David Ruch at the Duke Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

Patterson had a similar procedure last year to repair the median nerve in the same arm. He’s expected to be healthy for the start of spring training.

Press box named

The Nationals announced they will name the press box at their new ballpark in honor of late baseball writer Shirley Povich, who won the Hall of Fame’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award.

The “Shirley Povich Media Center” will honor the longtime Washington Post columnist and sports editor, who frequently wrote about the Senators and later about the possibility of baseball returning to the District before his death in 1998.

A formal dedication ceremony will take place next season when the ballpark opens.

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