- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2008

ATLANTA | Jason Bergmann had tried for weeks to salvage something positive out of his season. In the end, perhaps he tried too hard.

Manager Manny Acta sent the struggling Washington Nationals right-hander to the bullpen Saturday in the wake of another disappointing start. Rookie Shairon Martis, who impressed in his big league debut Thursday night, will remain in the rotation for the time being.

Bergmann has pitched well in stretches this season but has posted in a 10.48 ERA over his last five starts and his overall numbers (2-11, 5.23 ERA) rank among the worst in the majors for starters.

“At the end, you look at the final results and you put them all together,” Acta said. “We’re not going to be hand-picking two or three good starts in June or two good weeks from a position player in May. At the end, you just have to look at the bottom line.”

Bergmann, while surprised by the decision, understood why it was made. By his own admission, he had put pressure on himself to get back on track in the last month or so, leading to even worse results.

“I think I’m just trying way too hard,” he said. “Instead of trusting everything, I’m trying to make things happen. And it’s gotten me into trouble.”

In the wake of Martis’ five-inning debut Thursday night, the Nationals said they didn’t intend to audition him the rest of this month and give him a shot heading into 2009. But Bergmann’s struggles opened the door for another opportunity, and so the right-hander will make another start, most likely next weekend at Florida.

“Going into spring training, we’ll have a clearer picture what this guy really fits into our plan as a starter or in the pen, or if he’s ready to compete in spring training for a spot of if he’s going to have to go back to Triple-A,” Acta said. “He’s only 21, but we are going to give him the shot.”

Flores improving

Five days ago, Jesus Flores’ season looked finished. But the Washington catcher’s sprained left ankle has improved so much in the days since team officials now believe he will return to the lineup well before the end of the month.

Flores, who suffered the injury after Philadelphia’s Chase Utley ran him over at the plate Tuesday, remains with the club and is moving around much better. He hasn’t participated in any on-field activities yet, but he doesn’t appear to be far off.

“Obviously with injuries like that, a lot of people rush into trying to put a timetable on it,” Acta said. “He’s walking around better. I don’t want to put a timetable on it myself, but I’m sure he’s not going to be out for the season.”

Potent Potomac

The Class A Potomac Nationals advanced to the Carolina League championship series after sweeping Wilmington in three games in the first round of the postseason.

Ross Detwiler, the organization’s first-round pick in last summer’s draft, earned the 1-0 win Friday night and carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Michael Burgess, another 2007 draft pick, doubled and scored the game’s lone run.

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