- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2009

Randy Johnson’s pursuit of career win No. 300 will have to wait another day.

The San Francisco Giants left-hander was due to start Wednesday night against the Washington Nationals in his first attempt at joining the most exclusive pitching club in baseball, but several lines of vicious thunderstorms and a soaked field forced the game to be postponed after a delay of more than 3 1/2 hours.

“We really tried,” Nationals president Stan Kasten said. “The umpires did a great job. We were all trying to get it done. But at the end of the night, it’s not worth the risk to our players to play on that field tonight.”

The two teams now will play a true doubleheader Thursday beginning at 4:35 p.m. Johnson will start the opener against Nationals rookie Jordan Zimmermann, with Matt Cain facing Ross Detwiler in the nightcap.

Fans who held tickets to Wednesday’s game can exchange them for any comparable available seat at a future game this season excluding the June 23-25 interleague series against the Boston Red Sox.

A larger-than-normal crowd - not to mention a sizable media contingent - had gathered at Nationals Park to witness Johnson attempt to become the 24th pitcher in baseball history to win 300 games. But the Big Unit never emerged from the visiting clubhouse to begin pregame warmups.

Afternoon showers canceled batting practice, and the tarp remained on the infield as a strong line of storms hit the area shortly before the scheduled 7:05 p.m. first pitch., flooding much of shallow right field. The grounds crew pulled the tarp at about 8 p.m. and drained the outfield, only to have to cover the infield again as another line of storms approached.

Kasten had remained hopeful of getting the game in but conceded the field had taken on too much water after examining shallow left field with the entire umpiring crew.

“It was pretty bad,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “They did all they could. We wanted to get it in, but we dont want to make it a farce.”

Zimmermann, who made his big league debut April 20 after a 2-hour, 10-minute rain delay, said once it became obvious the field was soaked, he preferred to wait till Thursday to take the mound.

“It’s probably better to go [Thursday],” he said. “I mean, it was going to be wet and sloppy. Better to have a dry field and see what happens.”

Willingham still out

Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham remained sidelined with a stomach virus, and there was no guarantee he would be ready to return Thursday.

He had hit eight homers in the last 24 games. But the Nationals had to shuffle their outfield Tuesday, moving Elijah Dukes to right and playing Willie Harris in center field, and had they played Wednesday, Willingham would have sat out.

“Willingham’s not doing too good,” manager Manny Acta said. “That virus is affecting him. He’s still very weak. He’s not in very good shape right now.”

The Nationals had no evidence that Willingham’s symptoms were connected to the flu virus that had sidelined Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran and pitcher John Maine last week. The Nationals were in New York last week, and a television producer was sent home with flulike symptoms from the Mets’ trip to Pittsburgh several days after the Nationals were in town.

Beltran was scheduled to be back in the lineup Wednesday for the Mets after initial questions of whether swine flu was affecting the producer or the two players.

Acta said he didn’t know whether Willingham’s symptoms had any connection to the Mets’ virus or whether swine flu was a concern.

“I know as much as you guys do,” Acta said. “I don’t think what I read was referring to [Beltran]. It was more to a TV reporter or something. Hopefully, it’s not [connected to Willingham].”

Whatever the cause of the virus was, it was still strong enough to keep Willingham out.

“It’s a day-to-day thing,” Acta said. “He felt last night that today he was going to be fine. But I checked with him, and he’s not feeling very good.

Pitching coach swap

With Steve McCatty coming from Class AAA Syracuse to replace Randy St. Claire, who was fired Monday night, the Nationals shuffled their minor league coaching staff on Wednesday.

Rich Gale, the pitching coach at Class A Hagerstown, will move to Syracuse to replace McCatty. Franklin Bravo moves from Class A Vermont to take Gale’s place, and Joel Sanchez is heading from the Nationals’ rookie ball affiliate in the Gulf Coast League to Vermont. Lastly, Mark Grater, who is the Nationals’ rehab pitching coordinator, will add coaching the Gulf Coast League pitchers to his duties.

Glavine pickup unlikely

The Atlanta Braves released two-time Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine, and while the Nationals have talked about wanting a veteran starter to mentor their young pitchers, it’s unlikely Glavine will land with them.

A team source wouldn’t rule out the possibility of signing Glavine but said it was unlikely the left-hander would pitch for them. The source said the team has some interest in bringing Glavine on board as a spring training instructor once he retires.

Glavine made his big league debut while Nationals team president Stan Kasten held the same role with the Braves, and Glavine left Atlanta for the first time after the 2002 season, a year before Kasten stepped down.

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