- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2008

After the champagne stopped spraying and the celebration ceased in the wake of the Potomac Nationals’ first-half Carolina League Northern Division title, manager Randy Knorr was left with a problem no one in the Washington Nationals organization has dealt with: how to handle a team that’s three months away from cashing in on the playoff berth it already has clinched.

Potomac wrapped up the division title Monday night with a 5-3 win over Winston-Salem, becoming the first full-season affiliate to reach the postseason since the big league franchise moved to the District in 2005 (one of the organization’s two Dominican Summer League affiliates won its league title last season).

Now they will have until September before the Carolina League playoffs get started, and Knorr knows he has some work to do.

The 39-year-old manager said his goal remains getting as many players promoted to Class AA Harrisburg as he can, and since the Class A Nationals have little to play for in their league, he needs to come up with ways to keep pressure on his players.

“That’s going to be the hardest thing for me now,” Knorr said. “I don’t want them to say, ‘OK, we won the first half,’ and go through the motions. I’ve got to get these guys to understand that the way we go to Double-A is that we might have to work harder. We have half a season left to see how many guys we can get there.”

Alaniz to Harrisburg

Knorr sent another player to Harrisburg this week, and it wasn’t a big surprise: Adrian Alaniz, who was 9-0 with a 2.62 ERA for Potomac, was called up Wednesday and will be the fifth former Potomac pitcher on Harrisburg’s roster.

This is Alaniz’s first full season, and Knorr conceded he’s a little surprised to be sending the former University of Texas pitcher to Harrisburg already. But after a pair of shaky early season starts, Knorr said Alaniz looks like a different pitcher.

“You just be patient with him and talk to him,” Knorr said. “I remember there was a point early in the season, he came in and he had his shoulders slumped down. I just said, ‘Listen, I’m not going to watch that mound presence anymore. So fix it or I’m going to take you out of the game.’ I just said it in passing, didn’t get in his face or anything. The aptitude he has to make adjustments really tells you a lot about him. He’s one of those kids you tell once, and you don’t have to tell him again.”

Injury updates

Harrisburg infielder Ian Desmond was placed on the disabled list June 4 with a wrist injury, and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said the 22-year-old has a stress fracture in his hamate bone.

“He’s been casted. They did not remove the hamate bone,” Bowden said. “There is a stress fracture but not a complete fracture. It’s too bad because he was really hot the last 10 games.”

Left-hander Matt Chico, whom the Nationals optioned to Class AAA Columbus last month, has significant ossification - a condition in which connective tissue is turned to bone or bone-like tissue - in his left elbow, as well as loose fragments in the elbow. Dr. James Andrews recommended Chico rest for six weeks, but he did not advocate surgery.

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