- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

ATLANTA — In what can be seen as another bad sign for struggling Washington Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman, the team acquired infielder Deivi Cruz in a trade with the San Francisco Giants before last night’s game against the Atlanta Braves.

The Nationals sent unheralded minor league reliever Ben Cox to the Giants for Cruz, a 32-year-old who is expected to join the team before the second game of today’s doubleheader. Cruz, a free agent at the end of the season, is hitting .268 with five home runs, 10 doubles and 19 RBI in 81 games this season.

“We’re just looking for a spark here,” Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said. “Whether it’s [Cruz] or Ryan Zimmerman or some of the other kids from Triple-A, we’re just doing what we can to jump-start us. This is a minor trade. It helps our bench, but it also gives [Nationals manager Frank Robinson] a choice. This guy has been an everyday player before. He can play second, short and third.”

Guzman, signed as a free agent in the offseason, has been below .200 for most of the season and has become a focal point of criticism for the Nationals’ offensive woes.

In his nine-year major league career, Cruz has hit .269 with 70 home runs and 463 RBI for Detroit, San Diego, Baltimore and San Francisco.

To fit Cruz on the 25-man roster, the Nationals probably will send down reliever Jason Bergmann.

“We’ll go from 12 pitchers to 11 pitchers,” Bowden said. “The pitcher we send out, we’ll bring him right back on Tuesday. You don’t need 12 pitchers in the postseason.”

The Nationals will have to pay a prorated portion of Cruz’s $800,000 contract, which comes to around $136,000 for the remainder of the season.

“You keep looking at the same thing day in and day out if you’re not winning,” Bowden said. “It’s one thing if you’re winning, but if you’re not winning and you’re not scoring runs, you’ve got to try something different.”

The Nationals likely didn’t lose much in giving up Cox. The 23-year-old was 4-4 with six saves and a 3.00 ERA in 42 games with the Class A Savannah Sand Gnats of the South Atlantic League. The Montreal Expos took Cox in the 19th round of last year’s draft.

Meanwhile, the Nationals outrighted minor league pitcher Danny Rueckel to Class AA Harrisburg yesterday to open a spot for Cruz on the club’s 40-man roster. Rueckel, a right-handed reliever, has been with the Senators all season and was a spring training invitee. He is 9-5 with a 3.89 ERA.

Happy birthday, Frank

Robinson will become the third major league baseball manager at least 70 years old today, joining Florida’s Jack McKeon (75) and San Francisco’s Felipe Alou (73).

The Nationals manager said he’s planning nothing special for his birthday.

“Yeah, coming to the ballpark to try and win a doubleheader,” he said.

This year, Robinson has shown no sign of slowing down. He nearly got into a physical confrontation with Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia in June when he busted pitcher Brendan Donnelly for having pine tar in his glove.

“His knowledge and understanding of the game has not changed. His approach to the game certainly has not changed. He wants players to give 100 percent of their ability when they play,” said Nationals first-base coach Don Buford, who played alongside Robinson in the Baltimore Orioles outfield.

Armas on schedule

Tony Armas Jr. threw in two separate bullpen sessions at Turner Field on Monday and didn’t experience any pain after resting for a week. That means Armas (7-7, 4.53 ERA) likely will make his next start tomorrow in the series finale against the Braves.

The last time Armas pitched was against the Cincinnati Reds Aug. 23 when he went just three innings before removing himself from the game with a sore right shoulder.

“We’ll watch him,” Robinson said. “The shorter leash will be how he performs.”

Drese out for season

Nationals right-hander Ryan Drese will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a slap tear in his labrum in the next 10 days. The procedure will be performed by orthopedic surgeon Lewis Yocum.

Drese was placed on the 15-day disabled list last Aug. 23 with what was diagnosed as right shoulder tendinitis. On Monday, Drese flew to California to get a second opinion from Yocum, who recommended surgery.

Drese was 3-6 with a 4.98 ERA in 11 starts this season with the Nationals. The Nationals claimed Drese off waivers June 10 from the Texas Rangers.

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