- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

LOS ANGELES — First things first: Frank Robinson insists he likes Zach Day. The Washington Nationals manager says he has “liked this kid’s stuff ever since the day he got here.”

Robinson, though, has little patience for pitchers who consistently nibble around the strike zone and even less for those who get upset when they get pulled from a ballgame sooner than they would prefer.

That’s why Robinson felt the need to criticize Day before last night’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. After watching the 26-year-old right-hander struggle to make it through 32/3 innings in Tuesday night’s 4-2 loss at Dodger Stadium, then complain about his manager having no confidence in him, Robinson decided enough was enough.

“Zach Day doesn’t think I like him,” Robinson said. “And anything I do short of him not being successful, he feels like I’m not giving him an opportunity to pitch out of it.”

Day, who is 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA in six appearances (five starts), doesn’t figure to get another opportunity to pitch his way out of a jam any time soon. Robinson all but said yesterday that Day will be sent to the bullpen once right-hander Tony Armas Jr. comes off the disabled list this weekend.

“He is the likely candidate right now,” the manager said.

Questions about Robinson’s lack of confidence in Day surfaced Tuesday night, when the manager pulled his starting pitcher with two outs in the fourth inning of a 2-2 game. Day had been laboring from the start, needing 88 pitches to make it as far as he did. After Day walked Los Angeles’ Cesar Izturis on five pitches, then surrendered a two-strike single to Hee-Seop Choi, Robinson decided to yank him.

As Robinson strode to the mound to retrieve the ball, Day stood facing the opposite direction, never acknowledging his manager. (Day later said he was talking to catcher Brian Schneider, not snubbing Robinson.)

Day was not available before last night’s game, having been sent to a doctor after complaining of dizziness. His previously scheduled start had been pushed back because of an inner-ear infection.

After Tuesday night’s game, Day complained about what he believes to be Robinson’s lack of confidence in him and wondered aloud what the future holds in store for him.

“I don’t know. I wish I could tell you,” he said. “It has been tough. I know Frank has had a short leash on me. Maybe I’m putting a little bit more pressure on myself.”

Robinson has been hesitant to let Day pitch out of jams before. In his last start, April 25 against the Phillies, he was pulled in the sixth inning with a 2-0 count on opposing pitcher Cory Lidle.

Robinson does not, however, agree he has no confidence in Day.

“I have different professional thoughts about different players here, but I don’t dislike any of the players that are on my team,” he said. “And I don’t lose confidence in them. It’s just when things are not going well, I have to do certain things for the good of the team that I may not do if you’re going good.

“In other words, I can trust you because you’ve shown me you’re capable of getting out of trouble or holding it to a minimum. If you have not shown me that, I cannot take the chance of an inning exploding and a game getting away from me.”

It has been suggested by some that Day, in his fourth season with the franchise, might benefit from a change of scenery. For now, Day only appears headed to the bullpen, not out of town.

He was the subject of trade rumors this spring, though, and Robinson yesterday questioned whether Day’s time with the organization may have run its course.

“It’s not the first time players have felt like this toward managers, and I’m not the only one,” Robinson said. “If it comes to the point where it’s so unbearable that it affects his performance and it affects my sleep patterns at night and my friendly, sunny personality, then you have to start thinking: Would [Day] be better off someplace else?”

Notes — Robinson shook up his lineup for last night’s game against Dodgers left-hander Odalis Perez, giving leadoff hitter Brad Wilkerson his first day off this season and benching left fielder Ryan Church and catcher Brian Schneider in favor of a pair of right-handed hitters. Recently recalled center fielder Endy Chavez took over for Wilkerson in the leadoff spot, with improving shortstop Cristian Guzman batting second. Jeffrey Hammonds started in left field, and Gary Bennett caught in place of Schneider. …

Reliever Antonio Osuna, on the DL since April11 with a sore shoulder, will undergo an MRI today in Washington to determine whether there’s any more serious damage. Osuna had been scheduled to undergo the procedure earlier this week, but he was given permission to return to his hometown in Mexico to visit his cancer-stricken father.

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