- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 18, 2008

— In the wake of the news Willie Randolph had been fired as the New York Mets‘ manager early Tuesday morning, Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta’s name predictably surfaced as a potential replacement, as it did from time to time during Randolph’s checkered tenure.

But on Tuesday, Acta reiterated he is staying put.

Acta was the Mets’ third-base coach in 2005 and 2006 and worked for Mets general manager Omar Minaya before that with the Expos. While saying he would stay with the Nationals as long as he’s wanted, he scoffed at the notion his connection with Minaya would lead to a job.

“I think most of those comments are blown out of proportion,” Acta said. “People are really mistaking my relationship with Omar Minaya and [Mets vice president of player development] Tony Bernazard. We are friends. Those are two guys I talk to during the season and during the offseason, too, because they are my friends.

“It has nothing to do with Expos, Mets, Nationals or anything. It’s a friendship. I’m a National. I’m very happy here, and I’ll be here as long as the Lerners, Stan Kasten and Jim Bowden want me to be.”

When he was asked whether that meant he wouldn’t be interested in the Mets job, Acta said, “It’s not even a question. I’m not here to talk about the Mets.”

Acta is under contract through the 2009 season, and the Nationals have an option for 2010, meaning he essentially would have to be “traded” to the Mets as Lou Piniella was from Seattle to Tampa Bay before the 2002 season.

Lo Duca is back

Catcher Paul Lo Duca was activated from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday at a convenient time: The Nationals can use him as their designated hitter during three interleague games at Minnesota. But Lo Duca, who broke a bone in his right hand May 8, won’t necessarily see much time at catcher.

Jesus Flores, 23, is hitting .311 in 33 games this season, and the Nationals have no plans to send him back to the minors. Lo Duca likely will play in the outfield and could play at first base, where he played in his last rehab appearance with Class AAA Columbus on Monday.

“I understand the kid deserves to play. He’s played unbelievable,” Lo Duca said. “I’m going to try to help the team either way, whatever they need me to do, and go from there.”

Perez recovering

Left-hander Odalis Perez threw 35 pitches Monday without pain in his left shoulder. And while a final decision won’t be made until he throws again Tuesday, he hasn’t ruled out starting Friday against the Rangers.

“[I may throw] another simulated game. That’s not my decision,” Perez said. “There may be a rehab start. I don’t know. They’ve got to make the decision.”

Perez threw only fastballs and change-ups Monday, and Acta said the Nationals will re-evaluate him after seeing how he throws his breaking pitches.