- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

General manager Jim Bowden plans to scout the Washington Nationals farm clubs next week to see whether there are any players who could step in and bolster the team’s anemic offense.

“Look, we have no offense right now,” Bowden said yesterday. “Hopefully, these guys will start hitting. If they don’t, we’ll go down and take Triple-A and Double-A hitters. I’m hoping [the current players] will [wake] up. [The collective batting slump] is not going to go on much longer.”

After last night’s 3-1 victory over the the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Nationals remained last in the National League in runs (411), hits (905), total bases (1,376), home runs (75), RBI (396), stolen bases (30) and slugging percentage (.385).

Bowden would prefer to wait until major league rosters expand to 40 on Sept.1 before bringing up young talent. But with the Nationals’ season seemingly slipping away, he may not be able to wait.

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals first-round pick (fourth overall) in June’s draft; infielder Tony Blanco; and Class A Potomac third baseman Kory Casto are drawing the most interest from Bowden.

Vinny Castilla, the Nationals’ 38-year-old third baseman, has battled left knee problems all season that have dramatically reduced his offensive production. Castilla, who last season with the Colorado Rockies led the NL with 131 RBI, is hitting just .245 with six home runs and 46 RBI.

Zimmerman, from the University of Virginia, has posted impressive numbers in his first professional season. Before last night, he was batting .308 with 15 doubles, six home runs and 23 RBI with Class A Savannah and Class AA Harrisburg.

Blanco, who is on a rehab assignment at Class AAA New Orleans, had 14 RBI in 15 games. Casto was hitting .304 with 20 home runs and 74 RBI in 104 games.

“There’s no question that a Zimmerman, a Blanco, and a Kory Casto, all three of them, have to be in our minds because those guys are doing well,” Bowden said. “The more options you have, the better chance you have of finding something that works.”

Bowden can’t explain the Nationals’ 5-14 collapse since the All-Star break. The team led the NL East from June 5 until July 26 but trail the Atlanta Braves by 41/2 games.

“I look out there and a lot of the times I don’t know where the energy went,” Bowden said. “It’s like I want to give the whole team an [energy drink]. I swear they look dead out there. We go down to Atlanta, we see the energy with the Braves.”

Schneider ailing

Catcher Brian Schneider underwent an MRI on his sore right shoulder yesterday and sat out last night’s game. The MRI was negative, and he is listed as day-to-day.

“It felt really good after the game [Tuesday] night, then I woke up this morning and had some pain in my shoulder,” Schneider said. “Basically, if I feel good [tonight], I’m [playing].”

Schneider, who went 2-for-2 on Tuesday against the Dodgers, was diagnosed with bursitis in his right shoulder and received his second cortisone shot in three days.

“Brian’s MRI was essentially negative, just had some soreness in his shoulder,” said team physician Wiemi Douoguih. “It’s kind of difficult to predict, but usually when there’s no structural damage, the swelling should go down pretty quickly. It’s getting late in the season. This is the time when things like that tend to flare up. I expect he’s going to turn the corner.”

Carroll as catcher?

Schneider’s injury left backup Gary Bennett as the only true catcher the Nationals had for last night’s game against the Dodgers. If Bennett were injured, who would be behind the plate?

“I would think Jamey [Carroll] would probably be the guy, [though] I don’t think he’s ever been back there,” manager Frank Robinson said. “But let’s not have those negative thoughts.”

Actually, Carroll does have a little experience at the job.

“I was a bullpen catcher for a couple years but not in a game since I was younger,” Carroll said.

In 2000 and ‘01 at Class AAA Ottawa, Carroll served as the Senators’ bullpen catcher because he wasn’t playing much.

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