- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — In his first game back with the Washington Nationals, Jose Vidro hit lower in the batting order than he’s used to.

Vidro was activated off the 15-day disabled list yesterday and manager Frank Robinson inserted Vidro into the fifth spot in the lineup, in place of right fielder Austin Kearns.

“It’s OK,” said Vidro, whose team played the Philadelphia Phillies. “Frank pointed it out to me and I understand, it’s tough to get [Ryan Zimmerman] out of the third hole right now. He’s doing a great job there.

“Obviously, with [Alfonso] Soriano and his speed, and [Felipe] Lopez, [it makes] a very good 1-2-3 combination. I feel pretty comfortable there. Hopefully, I can get a lot of RBI opportunities there, and see if I can help out the ballclub more than hitting high up in the lineup.”

Although Vidro entered last night’s game hitting .300, his power numbers have been disappointing. In 90 games this season, Vidro has 16 doubles, six home runs and a triple.

Robinson said it wasn’t a difficult decision dropping Vidro in the batting order.

“Because there are other people in the lineup, I have to put [Vidro] someplace,” Robinson said. “I put him in a slot that I felt like he was more comfortable and the best for us.”

Vidro, who on July 25 was placed on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain, had batted only in the top three spots this season. The switch-hitting Vidro, 31, had led off twice, hit second 47 times and third in 36 games.

In a four-game rehab assignment with Class A Potomac and Class AA Harrisburg, Vidro went 3-for-11 (.273) with a double, RBI and two walks. Vidro served as Potomac’s designated hitter for just one game and played second base three games for Harrisburg.

Robinson said Vidro will start tonight’s game and then have tomorrow off because of the quick turnaround from a night game to a day game.

In his first at-bat last night, Vidro lined Brett Myers’ first pitch into right field for a single. He went 2-for-5 on the night.

Kearns’ slump

With Kearns hitting .120 (3-for-25) with nine strikeouts in his last six games, Robinson had a convenient reason to bat Vidro fifth. Robinson gave Kearns the day off yesterday and started Ryan Church in right field.

Kearns and shortstop Lopez were key components in an eight-player trade on July 13 that sent shortstop Royce Clayton and relievers Bill Bray and Gary Majewski to the Cincinnati Reds.

In 30 games with the Nationals, Kearns is hitting .234 with one home run and 12 RBI.

“I don’t like days off, but I don’t make out the lineup,” Kearns said. “I always want to play.”

The right-handed Kearns attributes his batting slump to overswinging.

“I’m trying to do too much,” Kearns said. “I’d have to see a chart or something to tell you that I’m pulling the ball too much. The middle of the field is always my strength. Any hitter will tell you, if they’re driving it the other way, that’s usually when they are pretty locked in.”

Ward ailing

Daryle Ward hasn’t played lately because of injuries sustained in May.

Ward, who has tried to play through the pain, has been bothered by sore Achilles tendons on both ankles. By compensating for the ailment, Ward said he developed a hip flexor. Ward had shut himself down for the last three games and was available only to pinch hit last night.

“I told them I just would like to be able to run,” said Ward, who is hitting .330 with five home runs and 16 RBI in 88 at-bats this season. “After you hit the ball, you’ve got to run. It’s hard to play this game as it is, so when you have leg injuries, it’s tough. You’ve got to take care of them.”

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