- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2005

Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson said yesterday he might try Ryan Zimmerman at shortstop again despite the rookie’s two errors in Wednesday night’s 12-1 loss to the Florida Marlins.

“I wanted to take a look at him at shortstop myself,” Robinson said. “It could work. But right now I don’t know the next time he’ll be out there.”

Wednesday was Zimmerman’s eighth professional game at shortstop but the first at the major league level. He played third base primarily at the University of Virginia and in the minors, but Nationals general manager Jim Bowden ordered the switch while Zimmerman was playing at Class AA Harrisburg to see whether a position change is feasible.

Zimmerman’s major league debut at short at least came in the right kind of game — one the Nationals had no chance of winning,

“The best thing is it wasn’t a 2-2 game or something,” Zimmerman said. “Hopefully, I can learn from that, move on and everything will be fine. If I had to tell you that I was more comfortable [at third base or shortstop], I’d probably say third. But I feel that I’m comfortable at short, too. I don’t doubt myself there either.”

Uncertain starter

The use of relief pitchers tonight and tomorrow probably will dictate who starts Sunday’s game against the division-leading Atlanta Braves. Right now Robinson has no idea who will pitch the final game of a 10-game homestand.

Robinson yesterday ruled out Darrell Rasner, John Halama and Jon Rauch for the assignment against Braves ace John Smoltz (14-6, 2.96 ERA). The Nationals will use a four-man rotation unless they are out of the National League wild-card race.

Robinson also needs his most valuable relievers — Gary Majewski, Hector Carrasco and closer Chad Cordero — available in the bullpen Sunday. That leaves left-hander Joey Eischen, rookie Jason Bergmann or Travis Hughes as the likely starter.

Eischen volunteered his services the last time the Nationals had a pitching crisis and has started 144 games in the minors. Hughes has started 92 games over his eight-year minor league career. As recently as last year, Bergmann started 13 games for the Class A Savannah Sand Gnats.

Extra bases

The name Expos disappeared from professional baseball last night when the Vermont Expos, the Nationals’ Class A affiliate in the short-season New York-Penn League, played their final game. Vermont kept the nickname this season mostly as a tribute to the defunct Montreal Expos but will change it next season. …

Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman was 3-for-4 to raise his batting average to .202. That last time Guzman was hitting over .200 this season was on June 30 when he was batting .201….

First Nick Johnson (bruised heel) entered last night’s game as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning and walked in his first at-bat in the past five games. …

Injured outfielder Ryan Church (broken toe) is expected to be activated off the 15-day disabled list today. Church is hitting .295 with seven home runs and 36 RBI this season.

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