- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2005

The Washington Nationals’ cavalry is coming, but it probably won’t arrive until after next week’s All-Star break, when the National League East leaders get several key players back from injury.

With the team playing exceptional baseball, there’s no sense of urgency about rushing left fielder Ryan Church, first baseman Nick Johnson and shortstop Cristian Guzman back into action until each is 100 percent.

Church (collarbone) is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list today and Johnson (heel) during the July 11-13 All-Star break. Of the three, Guzman (hamstring) is the only one not on the DL.

“What we have to look for with those guys that are still on the disabled list or injured, is can we get them back healthy for that first game [next Thursday in Milwaukee] after the All-Star break? That’s kind of our goal at this point,” general manager Jim Bowden said. “I think it makes the most sense for our club right now to just make sure guys are 100 percent for the second half.”

According to Bowden, the plan is for Church and Johnson to do rehab assignments before they are activated. Both were outstanding during the first half of the season. Church is a leading candidate for NL rookie of the year honors with a team-leading .325 batting average, seven home runs and 28 RBI. Johnson posted All-Star numbers in the first half, hitting .320 with eight homers and 42 RBI.

“Finally, everybody is starting to get healthy, and once we get Nick back and full-strength, watch out, rest of the league,” Church said.

Ruling delayed

Major League Baseball won’t rule on outfielder Marlon Byrd’s appeal of his two-game suspension until after the All-Star break.

During a 2 p.m. hearing yesterday at RFK Stadium, John McHale, MLB’s vice-president of administration, heard both sides of the June 4 incident involving a collision between Byrd and umpire Joe Brinkman. Nationals president Tony Tavares, Bowden, manager Frank Robinson, Byrd, and Bob Lenaghan, the players association’s assistant general counsel, represented Byrd and the Nationals.

“I think it went well for both sides,” Byrd said. “They presented their side and everyone told what they knew basically.”

Byrd was ejected between the sixth and seventh innings for arguing a called third strike with first-base umpire Bill Miller on a checked swing that ended the sixth. Byrd was in shallow left field when Miller had heard enough and tossed the outfielder.

Byrd then charged toward first to confront Miller. Second-base umpire Brinkman tried to grab Byrd and was knocked to the ground.

“I thought the hearing was extremely fair for all sides concerned, and I have a lot of confidence at the end of the day justice will come forth from [McHale’s] decision,” Bowden said. “I felt very good when I walked out that both sides presented the proper facts. All the different arguments from both sides were heard.”

Day getting stronger

Zach Day looked sharp in his second rehab start, going five innings for Class AA Harrisburg. The right-hander allowed one run on five hits (all singles) with four strikeouts and one walk while picking up the Senators’ 4-2 win over Bowie at Prince George’s Stadium.

“I feel like I’m 100 percent right now,” said Day, who especially worked on his changeup in the early innings. “I am here to keep the ball down, throw strikes and show what I can do. I feel my command was there. It was a good five innings.”

Day’s right wrist was fractured by a line drive from Ken Griffey on May 23. He began the season in Washington’s starting rotation before getting demoted to the bullpen. Day, 27, was 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA with the Nationals. Saturday in his first rehab start, Day allowed one run and three hits over three innings. He said he feels ready to return to Washington if needed, but does not have a set schedule to rejoin the team.

Milton unlikely

Bob Boone, special assistant to Bowden, was dispatched to San Francisco on Tuesday night to watch Cincinnati Reds left-hander Eric Milton face the Giants. Boone gave very positive reports on the former University of Maryland star, who has a 7.20 ERA but has produced back-to-back quality starts and has been a subject of recent trade rumors.

Don’t look for Milton — or any other Cincinnati player — to wind up in Washington by the July 31 trading deadline, though. A club source reiterated yesterday that the Reds won’t return Bowden’s calls and that they “aren’t going to do anything to help Jim win.”

Extra bases

The commissioner’s office denied the Nationals’ request for infielder Henry Mateo (shoulder) to go on another 20-day rehab assignment. The Nationals are in a difficult position with Mateo because he needs rehab to get back to full strength and can’t be put on waivers because he’s on the DL. For now, Mateo will rehab with the Nationals at RFK, until they can find a way to send him on a rehab assignment. … Infielder Tony Blanco has a case of vertigo associated with a sinus condition and is listed day-to day. Blanco is available as a pinch runner, if necessary. …

Prospective Nationals owner Jonathan Ledecky today will help announce the creation of the Washington Baseball Community Trust, a charitable organization using the sport as a means to improve the District’s quality of life. Ledecky also intends to announce the support of D.C. Council members Marion Barry, Vincent Orange and Kwame Brown for his bid to buy the club.

Staff writers Mark Zuckerman, Eric Fisher and Jon Siegel contributed to this article.

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