- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 22, 2006

Alex Escobar’s luck has turned bad again.

Right after delivering the game-winning hit with two outs in the eighth inning last night, Escobar strained his right hamstring running to first base. He is listed as day-to-day.

If the Nationals center fielder is unable to play today, manager Frank Robinson said newly acquired outfielder Luis Matos would probably be his first choice as a replacement. Matos would be the Nationals’ 11th center fielder in the last two seasons.

“It’s not that I want to get hurt. I play hard, and it keeps happening,” Escobar said.

Escobar has been sidelined with injuries two entire seasons of the last four. He also has missed 42 games this season with a strained left hamstring.

“Maybe it’s time for us, if we feel like that he’s that important to us and that valuable to this organization and this ballclub, maybe get a specialist to try and check him our thoroughly as far as his muscles, tendons and whatever else is in his legs,” Robinson said. “And just see if there is something you can do to maybe help him prevent some of these things.”

Of late, the 27-year-old Escobar has proved why he was once considered one of the baseball’s top prospects when he was in the New York Mets system.

Since being activated from the disabled list on July 6, Escobar is hitting .415 (17-for-41) with 10 RBI. He has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games.

Last night was Escobar’s second game-winning hit in the last three games. On Tuesday, he had the game-winning RBI single in Washington’s 7-6 win over the Florida Marlins.

Escobar doesn’t think his latest injury is anything serious, but that’s what he said when he pulled his left hamstring and missed more than month. He missed all of last season with a broken right foot suffered in spring training and all of the 2002 season with a torn left ACL.

Patterson update

There’s a slim chance that right-hander John Patterson may pitch again this season, but it would be near the end of the season and it probably would be more of a rehab start.

Patterson (1-2, 4.43 ERA), who had successful exploratory surgery on his right forearm on Thursday, is probably out for the season. But the estimated four to six week rehabilitation doesn’t mean Patterson is simply going to jump back into the Nationals rotation.

“They’re talking four to six weeks before he can get started, I think,” Robinson said. “My understanding of it is the recovery time is four to six weeks; then he can begin baseball activities. If that’s the case, I don’t see much room for him or any real reason for him to come back, other than maybe to test it for himself and see how he is then wait over the winter.”

Vidro shut down

Second baseman Jose Vidro has shut himself down for the next few days — perhaps even longer — with a strained left hamstring.

Vidro, who came out of Monday’s game against the Marlins in the fourth inning, has sat out of the team’s past three games. Vidro, who is hitting .300, has no idea when he’ll return to the lineup. Marlon Anderson started his third straight game for Vidro at second last night.

“When I run and try to do something, it’s not doing any good and I’m not ready to play,” Vidro said. “I’m going to take a couple days off to make sure I’m OK. I’m not going to rush anything because I don’t have to, it could be very, very dangerous.”

O’Connor skipped

With Monday as an off day, the Nationals are going to skip over rookie left-hander Mike O’Connor in the rotation. O’Connor, who is scheduled to pitch next Saturday in Los Angeles, is available to pitch out of the bullpen.

O’Connor (3-6, 4.59) also will work with pitching coach Randy St. Claire before his next start.

“He’s just missing his spots,” St. Claire said. “If you can go back to day one, when he wants to throw the ball in, he throws it away. When he wants to throw it away, he throws it in.”

Visit from Piniella

Nationals general manager Jim Bowden escorted former manager Lou Piniella around RFK Stadium before last night’s game. Bowden and Piniella worked together in the early 1990s, when Piniella managed the Cincinnati Reds and Bowden worked in their front office. Piniella is in town because he is working today’s game for Fox as a color analyst.

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To submit a question, go to the https://www.washingtontimes.com/sports>Sports Page

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