- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2006

NEW YORK — Alfonso Soriano was back in the Washington Nationals’ lineup last night, ready to put Wednesday’s disciplinary benching by manager Frank Robinson behind him.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s closed,” Robinson said before last night’s game against the New York Mets. “It’s a non-issue. It’s done.”

It certainly was an issue during the sixth inning of Wednesday night’s 9-5 Nationals victory, when Robinson removed his $10 million outfielder from the game for not running out a pop-up to the catcher. With his team trailing by a run at the time, Robinson immediately motioned for backup Marlon Byrd to take over in left field.

The surprising move caught plenty of people off-guard, but it was roundly applauded in the Nationals’ clubhouse and front office. One club official said he believed Soriano’s benching sparked Washington to its come-from-behind win.

Robinson insisted he wasn’t trying to send a message to his entire team. He simply reacted to a situation he warned players about several times this spring.

“I didn’t think about setting the tone or anything,” he said. “But maybe it will get the attention of the other guys on the ballclub, and this wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

But did it get Soriano’s attention? Though the star outfielder admitted the punishment was fair given Robinson’s previous warnings, he has a history of laziness on the field. The manager acknowledged it could be difficult to get Soriano to change his ways, though he certainly hopes he will.

“I hope that he will take it from there and play the way he’s capable of playing,” Robinson said. “Run the ball out. That’s all. I don’t think that’s asking too much.”

Where’s DJ?

Wednesday’s game featured another surprising substitution. Surprising, at least, to Damian Jackson.

Robinson decided to insert the utilityman into the outfield in the seventh as part of a double switch. Jackson, though, was nowhere to be found for several minutes before he finally popped out of the dugout.

Turns out he was in the Nationals’ bullpen getting loose. Robinson was nearly ready to give up and put the defensively challenged Matt LeCroy in left field instead. Thankfully for LeCroy, Jackson showed up just in time.

“I’ve never been on a team where they double-switched with the leadoff hitter,” Jackson said. “I guess I have to learn Frank. Hopefully that’s the first and only miscue.”

Patterson’s OK

The Nationals expect John Patterson to be able to make his next scheduled start Monday after complaining of a tight right forearm Wednesday night.

Robinson speculated after the game — in which Patterson gave up four runs in only four innings — that his No. 2 starter might have to miss a start. But Patterson himself said he would be fine, and pitching coach Randy St. Claire concurred.

“Nobody seems to be concerned but me,” Robinson joked yesterday.

Extra bases

Reliever Gary Majewski will have his jersey from St. Pius X High School in Houston retired today before the Nationals play the Astros. Majewski, who wore No. 34 growing up, said he’s only the second St. Pius X alum to have his number retired in any sport. The other: former NFL quarterback and current Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak. …

Renowned opera star Placido Domingo will sing the national anthem at Tuesday’s home opener against the Mets. Domingo also sang at a game at RFK last season. …

The Nationals have signed a four-year extension with the Harrisburg Senators to continue as the organization’s Class AA affiliate through 2010. The two clubs have had a working relationship since 1991.

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To submit a question, go to the Sports Page

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