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‘Back to square one’

- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO | Manny Acta said Tuesday night and early Wednesday that he was "going back to square one" with his beleaguered bullpen, which meant the return of Joel Hanrahan as closer.

That said, the Washington Nationals manager cautioned that he wouldn't be afraid to turn to one of his other relievers to pitch the ninth inning if the situation called for it. And sure enough, the man who closed out Wednesday's 6-2 win over the San Francisco Giants was not Hanrahan but rather Kip Wells.

Brought in with one out in the eighth after setup man Joe Beimel faltered and allowed the Giants to draw within two runs, Wells got out of the inning by retiring two straight batters. And after the Nationals scored a couple of runs in the ninth to extend the lead, Acta decided to let the right-hander finish what he started.

Wells has two saves and a 4.40 ERA in 12 appearances.

"He's thrown the ball decent for us," Acta said. "And since he got out of the eighth with no problem, we kept him out there, especially with the lead."

Ultimately, though, it sounds as if Hanrahan will get more chances to close out games following Tuesday night's bullpen implosion - when Beimel served up a three-run homer to Pablo Sandoval with two outs in the ninth to take a 9-7 loss.

"At the end of the game, you usually need a guy who can strike guys out," Acta said.

"[Hanrahan] has got more strikeouts than innings. He's had a few good outings. He hasn't walked a guy in, I think, his last five or six innings. Give him an opportunity because we need a guy back there that can come in and make people swing and miss. But that's not etched in stone."

More bullpen changes

The Nationals have returned reliever Terrell Young, their Rule 5 pick, to the Cincinnati Reds.

The right-hander was the first selection made in last December's Rule 5 draft, but he injured his shoulder in spring training and spent the last month on the 15-day disabled list. Once he became healthy, Young was placed on waivers. And once he cleared, he was given back to the Reds. The Nationals get $25,000 back of the $50,000 they originally paid to draft him.

Young's departure clears a spot on Washington's 40-man roster, which the club will use to purchase the contract of Jesus Colome from Class AAA Syracuse.

Colome, who posted a 4.07 ERA in 122 appearances for the Nationals over the last two years, isn't eligible to return to the club until May 15 because of a league rule that penalizes teams or releasing a player after the season and then re-signing him the next spring.

Extra bases

Adam Dunn was out of the lineup for the first time this season, given a rare chance to sit and rest. Acta said he never planned for the slugger to play all 162 games this year and felt Wednesday's matinee was a good time to let Dunn sit because the Nationals were facing left-hander Barry Zito and have Thursday off. Dunn came up as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning and popped out. ...

Jesus Flores missed his fourth straight game with a bruised right shoulder, and there is some growing concern about his status. Officially, the catcher continues to be listed as "day-to-day."