- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 29, 2005

ST. LOUIS — Jamey Carroll admitted he probably needed a day off. The Washington Nationals second baseman hadn’t had one since May4 — the night Jose Vidro tore a tendon in his left ankle.

Carroll just wished his first day off since he became a regular didn’t have to come on the same night he bought 27 tickets for family and friends.

“Obviously, I want to play, but especially around here,” said Carroll, whose hometown of Evansville, Ind., is only a three-hour drive from St. Louis. “I’ve got a lot of family.”

The Carroll clan will have to wait until today’s series finale against the Cardinals to see their favorite player in the lineup.

Manager Frank Robinson felt Carroll, whose batting average has dropped from .310 to .263 over the last seven games, was in need of a night off — not only because of his struggles at the plate but because of the mental toll his rare extended stint in the lineup is taking on him.

“He hasn’t been geared to play like this,” Robinson said. “Physically and mentally, he’s probably a little tired by now.”

Rookie Brendan Harris made his first start of the year at second base in Carroll’s place last night, but don’t look for the move to be permanent. Carroll figures to be back in the lineup this afternoon, at which time he hopes to prove opposing pitchers no longer have his number.

“If you look at the way things have been going, yeah, I’ve been battling,” he said. “You get figured out. Now I’ve got to make the adjustments.”

Take a pitch, please

Robinson and hitting coach Tom McCraw spent considerable time early yesterday working with slumping right fielder Jose Guillen in the batting cage.

Robinson believes that Guillen had begun to open up his hitting stride too much, making him vulnerable to outside pitches. Guillen entered last night’s game with seven hits in his last 15 at-bats, but he has struggled mightily with runners on base and has begun to show signs of pressing at the plate.

“Guillen is a very tough individual on himself,” Robinson said. “He knows how important he is to this ballclub, and he tries to carry too much of the load. You have to keep things in perspective: You can’t do it all yourself.”

Guillen isn’t the only one struggling at the plate these days. Robinson is frustrated at the way many of his hitters are swinging at breaking balls out of the strike zone, especially early in the count. He has tried to impart the benefits of taking a few pitches, but it’s a tough message to get across.

“You try to tell guys that [hitting breaking balls] is not your strength,” Robinson said. “You’re swinging at a pitcher’s pitch, early in the count.”

Extra bases

John Patterson threw his first bullpen session since going on the disabled list with back spasms and emerged with no problems to report. The right-hander is scheduled to start Tuesday night against the Atlanta Braves at RFK Stadium. …

Outfielder Ryan Church was held out of last night’s game, one day after fouling a pitch off his right calf. The injury is not considered serious, and Church could be back in the lineup today. …

Sun-Woo Kim, C.J. Nitkowski and Tyrell Godwin all made their season debuts Friday night, the 37th, 38th and 39th players the Nationals have used this season. That tops the major leagues and is only seven short of the total number of players the Expos used in 2004.

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