- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

Andy Dunn, vice president of operations at RFK Stadium, defended the way his grounds crew handled Saturday’s rain-shortened game and criticized the umpires.

Both the Washington Nationals and New York Mets protested the 7-inning game because of unsafe playing conditions.

Dunn said the umpires waited too long to ask for the field to be covered once it started raining for the second time. By the time the tarp was called for, the infield was a quagmire.

“We had the field covered, then [the umpires] wanted us to uncover it,” Dunn said. “So we uncovered it and played ball. Then, the infield wasn’t draining, and they wanted the tarp. But at that point, the field was already unplayable. People need to realize this: The club has no say in any of this once the lineup cards are taken to home plate. All the calls from the ground, to the surface, to the tarping lie with the umpires.”

Saturday’s first rain delay was in the sixth inning and lasted 30 minutes. In the eighth-inning delay, it took the grounds crew 31 minutes just to cover the infield.

“The tarp got wet,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “I’ve seen this in the past, especially with these types of tarps. You have to have the real light material that just kind of floats, or else you’re going to run into some trouble like the grounds crew did [Saturday] night. When that thing gets wet, it’s almost impossible to pull it across the field. In my opinion, the playing field was unplayable before they even tried to put the tarp back on. It wouldn’t have made much of a difference if they got it back on.”

Nationals president Tony Tavares said youngsters helping the grounds crew folded the tarp incorrectly, thus making it difficult to cover the infield again.

“The kids out in the outfield were getting yelled at to hustle up by the umpires because they were concerned about the rainout,” Tavares said. “So they’re hustling, and they end up folding the tarp in the wrong direction … and that’s how all the water got into the infield. The issue was [the umpires] let too much rain get on that infield for too long a period of time.”

RFK’s grounds crew started to work on the field around 8a.m. yesterday. With lots of sunshine and brisk winds — perfect drying agents — RFK was back to normal before batting practice.

Robinson speaks out

Nationals outfielder Jose Guillen was hit by pitches from Mets starter Victor Zambrano twice Saturday to raise his season total of hit batters to four.

Robinson, for one, has seen enough.

“I’m thinking about Jose being hit, whether he’s being hit intentionally or not. I just want to let other pitchers in this league to be on notice,” Robinson said. “Just because they don’t want to pitch to Jose Guillen … we’re not going to stand by and see them use him for target practice when they don’t want to pitch to him, and that’s not a threat. We’re not going to stand by and watch this kid get hit time and time again.”

Guillen took the diplomatic approach.

“Let Frank take care of that. I don’t have a problem with that,” Guillen said. “I’m just playing my game. I don’t think the pitchers are throwing at me on purpose.”

Ahead of schedule

Pitcher Esteban Loaiza departed for Los Angeles yesterday so he will be well rested tonight for his sixth start of the season.

The Nationals begin a nine-game trip against the Dodgers tonight.

Loaiza (0-2, 4.13 ERA) attended high school in San Diego and has plenty of friends and family in Southern California.

“He’ll get a good night’s sleep,” Robinson said. “Is that a good thing? Well, who knows? I’ve seen it work both ways. I’ve seen when a guy goes out early and he does well, and I’ve seen guys go out there and get their brains beat out.”

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