ST. LOUIS — Zach Day today will start for the Washington Nationals for the first time in nearly a year. Both Day and the Nationals can only hope the outcome is better this time around.
His previous start with the Nationals (May 3, 2005 at Dodger Stadium) might very well have ended his first tenure with the franchise. After being pulled by Frank Robinson with two outs in the fourth inning, Day turned his back on the manager as he gave up the ball.
Afterward, the right-hander said Robinson had no confidence in him.
Said Robinson: “Zach Day doesn’t think I like him. 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 had a 5.06 ERA at the time, was sent to the bullpen. A few weeks later in Cincinnati, he fractured his forearm when he was hit by a line drive. And by mid-July, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Preston Wilson.
Now he’s back in the Nationals’ rotation, surprisingly called upon to start against the St. Louis Cardinals after a flurry of injuries decimated the rest of the staff.
Both Day and Robinson say they have put the past behind them. In fact, Robinson was one of the first to suggest claiming the 27-year-old off waivers after he was designated for assignment by the Rockies.
“I judge him from here on,” Robinson said. “I’m not thinking about the past. It’s not in the back of my mind, and I hope he does the same thing.”
The Nationals made the official decision yesterday to start Day in the series finale against St. Louis. Though he complained of shoulder spasms in Colorado, he felt good during a bullpen session Friday.
Pitching coach Randy St. Claire, who is working with Day to drop his arm angle slightly to help reduce strain on the shoulder, said Day should be able to throw up to 100 pitches today.
Backup infielder Damian Jackson was ejected yesterday in the fourth inning after arguing from the dugout railing.
Jackson, along with others in the Nationals’ dugout, began argued at plate umpire Bill Welke after a called strike on Marlon Byrd. Welke wasted little time tossing Jackson, and that prompted the utilityman to start running up the dugout steps.
Corralled by bench coach Eddie Rodriguez before he could get onto the field, Jackson then retreated to the clubhouse for the rest of the afternoon.
“I just disagreed with the call,” Jackson said. “You guys aren’t going to get me in trouble with the umpires’ association. A lot of people disagree, and I just got thrown out.”
Said Robinson: “He jokes with umpires the whole game. I don’t know if [Welke] took it as protesting calls the entire time before that or not. But what he said was really not that big a deal. And it was a questionable pitch.”
Outfielder Ryan Church missed yesterday’s game with flu-like symptoms, the same ailment that forced to him left Friday night’s game in the sixth inning.
Church wasn’t even allowed on the team bus yesterday. He stayed in his hotel room to recuperate and avoid contact with his teammates.
Coupled with Jackson’s ejection, the Nationals played most of the game with a three-man bench: Marlon Anderson, Daryle Ward and backup catcher Matt LeCroy.