- The Washington Times - Friday, May 27, 2005

ST. LOUIS — The Washington Nationals’ clubhouse had a decidedly different look yesterday after the team made nine transactions Thursday between road series against the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals.

All the additions — relievers T.J. Tucker, C.J. Nitkowski and Sun-Woo Kim, plus outfielder Tyrell Godwin — were in uniform and available for last night’s game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Pitchers Zach Day, Claudio Vargas and Jon Rauch were nowhere to be found, the first two having been demoted Thurs-day and Rauch having been placed on the disabled list with a torn labrum.

?We made the moves, and we feel like they’ll help the team,? manager Frank Robinson said. ?These were moves that were needed to right the ship.?

The Nationals’ ship clearly needed to be righted after three straight losses in Cincinnati following a 1-2 weekend in Toronto.

Most affected is Washington’s bullpen, which now has Tucker and Kim serving as long men and Nitkowski as the left-handed specialist the club has sorely needed since Joey Eischen broke his right arm May1.

There are more far-reaching implications as well, particularly to the starting rotation, which now has five set members: Livan Hernandez, Esteban Loaiza, Tony Armas Jr., Tomo Ohka and John Patterson, who is scheduled to come off the DL Tuesday.

But will all the changes have a positive effect on a reeling Washington club that isn’t getting much production from its healthy players?

?They’re only good if they work,? Robinson said. ?We’ve got to get a lot of guys going. It’s not just the guys that are gone. We’ve got to get this team going again.?

C.J.’s second chance.

When Nitkowski was traded from Cincinnati to Detroit for David Wells in 1995, the left-hander had no idea he’d be reunited with general manager Jim Bowden 10 years later — and in Washington of all places.

Nitkowski, 32, though, has seen it all during a career that spans 329 games and eight major league organizations. He owns a less than inspiring 5.36 career ERA, but GMs always have been intrigued by him as a reliever capable of getting out left-handed batters.

So when Nitkowski posted a sparkling 0.83 ERA in 19 games with the Pirates’ Class AAA affiliate in Indianapolis, Bowden came calling.

The two had not spoken since the day of the 1995 trade, but Nitkowski couldn’t pass up the chance to reunite with Bowden in Washington.

He’ll be under the gun with the Nationals, who are counting on him to come out of the bullpen and record big outs until Eischen comes off the DL in a month or so.

?I know I don’t have time to get my feet wet,? Nitkowski said.

Godwin’s big break

Godwin understands his first stint in the major leagues could be a short one, but the speedy outfielder wants to make the most of his time in a Nationals uniform.

?There are things in my game that I need to work on,? Godwin said. ?But I feel like I can play here.?

Called up from Class AAA New Orleans after batting .333 average and stealing 11 bases, Godwin will be used primarily off the bench as a pinch-runner and late-game substitution. Robinson, though, said he wouldn’t hesitate to give Godwin a start in the outfield if the situation is right.

?He’s not here just to pinch-run or pinch-hit,? Robinson said. ?He’s here to play.?

Extra bases

Rauch underwent a second examination yesterday on his injured right shoulder, and the diagnosis was no different than the one that revealed his torn labrum the day before. The right-hander will need surgery, and though there’s a chance he could return this season, Robinson said he’s not counting on it. …

Wil Cordero, recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, has moved his rehab assignment from Class A Potomac to Class AA Harrisburg. In his first at-bat last night for the Senators, the veteran first baseman doubled. He could be ready to come off the DL within a week.

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