- The Washington Times - Monday, May 4, 2009

Baseball’s unbalanced schedule dictates that teams from the National League’s Central and West divisions make only one trip to the District each season. That forces the Nationals to try everything in their power to get every game in, no matter the weather conditions.

The Nationals gave it their best shot Sunday, but a persistent rain would not let up, leading to the postponement of their series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Despite twice pulling the tarp off the infield in an attempt to get the field playable, the Nationals Park grounds crew couldn’t get a window of clear skies to start the game. After waiting nearly two hours, the club made the postponement official.

No makeup date was announced, and it’s going to be difficult to find a date that works since the Cardinals aren’t scheduled to return to the District. The teams have two common off-days this summer (June 15 and July 23), but either would require St. Louis to make a trip here while violating a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that prevents teams from playing more than 20 consecutive days.

“Yes, today there’s the extra consideration of them being in [the District] for the last time, but that’s really subordinate,” Nationals president Stan Kasten said before the game was called off. “If you can’t play, you can’t play. And if you can play, we will always try to play.”

Tickets for Sunday’s game can be used either at the eventual makeup game or may be exchanged for the same-priced seat at any home game this season, excluding the June 23-25 series against the Boston Red Sox.

The Nationals will bump all of their pitchers back a day, so John Lannan will start Monday against the Houston Astros, with Scott Olsen going in Tuesday’s series finale.

MacDougal signs deal

Still in search of bullpen help, the Nationals signed right-hander Mike MacDougal to a minor league contract. The 32-year-old will report to Class AAA Syracuse.

MacDougal was designated for assignment by the Chicago White Sox on April 21 after posting a 12.46 ERA in five appearances. The Nationals hope the hard-throwing reliever can rediscover the form that made him an All-Star closer with the Kansas City Royals in 2003.

The owner of 50 big league saves and a 4.18 ERA, MacDougal has been plagued by control problems in the past. Nationals acting general manager Mike Rizzo said the club hopes Syracuse pitching coach Steve McCatty can work out some of the reliever’s mechanical kinks and get him to a point where he could help Washington’s beleaguered bullpen.

“He’s had flashes of real brilliance at times in his career,” Rizzo said. “He’s got a great arm. He’s got two quality, big power pitches and has had trouble finding the strike zone. But at times in his career, he has found the strike zone and has had success.”

MacDougal becomes the fifth reliever signed by Rizzo since he took over GM duties March 1, joining right-handers Julian Tavarez and Kip Wells and lefties Joe Beimel and Ron Villone.

Extra bases

Rain also washed out Class A Potomac’s game against Frederick, which prevented Beimel from making his second rehab appearance. The veteran, on the 15-day disabled list with a left hip injury, will attempt to pitch Monday for Class AA Harrisburg. He’s still set to be activated Wednesday for the start of Washington’s three-city West Coast trip. …

Adam Dunn’s misspelled jersey from a game last month was put up for auction Saturday at the Nationals’ Dream Foundation Gala. The jersey, which read “Natinals” across the front, went for $8,000 — tops among the items up for bid at the charity event.

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