- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2005

Ryan Church’s rookie season reached another low point yesterday when the Washington Nationals placed him on the 15-day disabled list with a broken toe on his right foot.

To fill Church’s roster spot, the Nationals will recall outfielder Marlon Byrd today from Class AAA New Orleans.

Church was hit on the foot by Cincinnati starter Ramon Ortiz in Wednesday night’s game. The pitch broke the pinky toe on Church’s right foot, though the 26-year-old outfielder stayed in the game despite limping noticeably.

“I was popping some pills and kept on dragging my cleat up,” Church said. “It was already broken — there’s nothing you can do to make it worse.”

Nationals manager Frank Robinson expects Church to return sometime in September, saying, “He’s not going to be out for the season with a broken little toe.”

This is Church’s second DL stint. He missed 16 games from June 30 to July 13 with a right rib cage and collarbone injury after he slammed into Pittsburgh’s PNC Park’s left-field wall June 22.

Meanwhile, Byrd returns to the Nationals for the second time this season. In 20 games with the Zephyrs, Byrd batted .416 with five home runs and 11 RBI.

Robinson is hoping Byrd’s stint in New Orleans gave the outfielder a different outlook. When Robinson called Byrd into his office Aug. 2 to tell him he was being sent down, Byrd sat motionless and silent for about five minutes. Byrd then exited Robinson’s office, quickly packed his belongings and bolted RFK without saying goodbye to teammates.

Byrd’s dubious departure prompted Robinson to say, “He had an attitude when he came in, he had an attitude while he was here and he had an attitude when he left.”

This time, Byrd’s minor league numbers are too hard to ignore.

“I knew he would be back up, eventually, Sept. 1 probably,” Robinson said. “Or if there was a need, there wouldn’t have been any doubt we would have brought him back.”

The Nationals acquired Byrd on May 14 in a trade with Philadelphia for outfielder Endy Chavez. In 51 games with the Nationals, Byrd batted .243 with 16 RBI.

Rotation in flux

Robinson is undecided on his starting pitchers tomorrow and Sunday against St. Louis. Veteran left-hander John Halama wasn’t used out of the bullpen yesterday, so he is tomorrow’s likely starter. Halama said he hadn’t been told whether he would start.

The Nationals probably will call up a starter for Sunday. Robinson ruled out using John Patterson on just three days’ rest. New Orleans left-hander Matt White, who was scheduled to pitch in the team’s doubleheader last night but did not, is 8-5 with a 3.23 ERA with the Zephyrs and is the most likely candidate to be called up.

Fall in the sun

Nationals bench coach Eddie Rodriguez will manage the Peoria Saguaros in the upcoming Arizona Fall League.

Infielder Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals’ first-round draft pick (fourth overall); first baseman Larry Broadway; infielder Brendan Harris; and Class AA Harrisburg right-handers Chris Schroder and Josh Karp have been chosen to play in the league.

Two million and counting

The Nationals topped the 2 million mark in attendance yesterday. The announced crowd of 40,762 pushed the season total to 2,007,656 in the club’s 59th home game.

Yesterday was the ninth time the Nationals have drawn more than 40,000. Washington ranks 12th in the majors in attendance, averaging 34,028.

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